SCOOBA – The East Mississippi Community College men's rodeo team has qualified for next month's College National Finals Rodeo for the first time in program history after finishing the regular season as reserve champions of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's Ozark Region. The 2017 CNFR will take place June 11-17 at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyoming.
Coach Morgan Goodrich's EMCC Lions qualified for their first-ever CNFR team appearance by finishing as runners-up of the NIRA's Ozark Region with 4,710 cumulative team points earned during 10 regional events split between the fall and spring campaigns. Sitting behind only Missouri Valley College (7,200 points) within the regional men's standings, EMCC's second-place team effort during this past weekend's season-ending, UA Cossatot-hosted Colts College Rodeo held in Texarkana, Arkansas lifted the Lions past Southern Arkansas University (4,505 points) for the second and final CNFR men's team spot from the Ozark Region.
While preparing for the school's first-ever team appearance at college rodeo's national championship, East Mississippi Community College was previously represented by individual qualifiers at the College National Finals Rodeo during each of the past six years since the program's inception in 2010. A year ago in Wyoming while boasting the CNFR's all-around champion cowboy and tie-down roping national champion Marcus Theriot, the Lions claimed a school-best, fifth-place national finish by collecting 510 team points.
Theriot will again look to headline EMCC's rodeo squad at nationals by having repeated as the Ozark Region's all-around men's champion with 2,200 total points earned during the 2016-17 rodeo season. Along with edging out Missouri Valley's Dalton Kingery by 45 points for the region's all-around title, the Poplarville native also claimed the Ozark Region's tie-down roping (730 points) and team roping header (815) championships for the second straight year. Theriot also repeated as the region's reserve champion in steer wrestling (655 points).
Also rated among the Ozark Region's top 10 all-around cowboys this year, EMCC's Tristan Martin ranks eighth regionally with 730 total points. The McNeese State University transfer from Sulphur, Louisiana most recently won the steer wrestling event this past weekend at UA Cossatot and currently stands sixth in the event within the region. Martin also ranks fifth regionally in tie-down roping.
In team roping, East Mississippi's Jace Harris, of Vilonia, Arkansas, is the region's top heeler with 680 points after partnering with Southern Arkansas' Cooper Lee to win the UA Cossatot title. Fellow EMCC team roping heeler Ethan Wheeler (Pisgah, AL) follows close behind in third place regionally with 480 points.
Also representing EMCC during this year's CNFR will be North Pontotoc High School product Cooper Christensen, who will compete in steer wrestling along with teammates Theriot and Martin.
Last season marked the second straight year that East Mississippi had three competitors participate in the College National Finals Rodeo. A year ago en route to the Lions' No. 5 national men's finish, Theriot was joined by saddle bronc rider Kody Rinehart. EMCC was also represented by 2015-16 Ozark Region all-around women's champion Katelyn Nicholson.
Annually showcasing more than 400 collegiate cowboys and cowgirls from four-year universities and two-year junior colleges located throughout the country, the College National Finals Rodeo is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) annually crowns individual event champions in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. The top three student-athletes in each event and the top two men's and women's teams from each of the NIRA's 11 regions annually qualify for the CNFR.