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UT Martin Season Opener


By Ryne Rickman

The University of Tennessee at Martin 2018-19 rodeo season got underway with a three-day event at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Miss. The season-opening rodeo runs Thursday, Sept. 13 through Saturday, Sept. 15. This week’s rodeo hosted by Pearl River is one of ten events on the regular season schedule in 2018-19, including the 51st annual UT Martin Spring College Rodeo on April 11-13, 2019. The 2019 CNFR will be held in Casper, Wyo. and is set for June 9-15, 2019.

The 2018-19 UT Martin rodeo squad features 34 returners and 24 newcomers, as head coach John Luthi enters his 22nd season at the helm of the program.

The UT Martin men’s team has 17 returners along with 15 newcomers this season. The returners include a trio with postseason experience in senior Ryan McDaniel (sixth at the 2018 CNFR with 115 total points in bull riding), junior Ross Mitchell (second at the 2017 CNFR with 180 points in team roping header) and sophomore Chase Thrasher (fourth at the 2018 CNFR with 165 points in tie down roping). Overall, the men’s team finished second in the Ozark Region with 3,908.33 points last season.

Seventeen returners and nine newcomers headline the UT Martin women’s squad this season. A 2015 CNFR participant, graduate Ashley Brooks ranked fourth in the Ozark Region last season with 490 points in barrel racing. The team also includes three returners who ranked in the top-15 in the Ozark Region in barrel racing: junior Casey Allen (435 points, fifth), senior Raegan Taylor (300 points, eighth) and junior Summer Conley (140 points, 14th). The women’s team accrued 1,560 overall points in 2017-18 to rank fifth in the Ozark Region standings.

Women Win; Men’s Team Places Second

Hattiesburg, Miss. – It was a successful season opener for both University of Tennessee at Martin rodeo squads as the women’s team claimed top honors while the men’s team finished second at the rodeo hosted by Pearl River Community College, September 13-15, 2018.

The UT Martin women’s squad tallied 380 points, besting second-place Murray State by 132.5 points. The men’s team earned 475 points, coming in second in the team standings behind Missouri Valley College (1,000 points).

The freshman duo of Kailey Schmidt and Lauren Heck excelled in goat tying during their collegiate debuts. Schmidt finished in second place across the board, posting times of 7.8 in the first round and 7.7 in the short go for a 15.5 average. Heck’s 16.2 average ranked third after she placed fourth in both the opening round and in the short go with identical times of 8.1 seconds.

Ashley Brooks and Madison McFall paved the way for UT Martin in barrel racing. Brooks put together the top performance of the short go (15.53), finishing second in average (31.29) and fifth in the opening round (15.76). McFall earned top-four finishes in all three phases, placing second in the short go (15.62), third in average (31.37), and fourth in the first round (15.75).

Four UT Martin cowboys dialed up points in bareback riding, led by Hunter Green. The newcomer out of Bastrop, La. posted the best score (85) in the short go, also finishing second in average (161) and splitting third in the opening round (76). Stetson Bierman earned points in all three phases, finishing second in the first go with a 78, splitting third with a 155 average, and placing fifth with a 77 in the short round. Weston Hamilton’s 70 points in the first round was good enough for fifth, and also ranked fifth in average, while Blake Leamon’s short-go score of 81 ranked third.

Robbie Van Holten came away with points in all three phases of the calf roping event. His time of 10 seconds in the second round was split third, and he finished fourth in average (20.5) and split sixth in the first round (10.5).

In saddle bronc riding, Robert Haley was one of only three cowboys in the entire event to record points. His 81 was the best score of the first round, and that same score held for the third-best mark in the average.

UT Martin received scoring contributions from four cowboys in steer wrestling. Hunter Styles led the charge with the second-best time in the first round (5.0), the third-best average score (10.8) and the fourth-best time in the short go (5.8).  Van Holten split second with a time of 5.6 seconds in the short round, and his 11.9 ranked fourth in average. Craig Parks (5.5) and Chase Thrasher (5.9) also had strong first rounds, placing fourth and sixth, respectively.

Five UT Martin cowboys spread over three teams collected points in team roping. Clay Tilley teamed up with Northwest Mississippi’s Cade Cowan to win the average (14.6) after splitting first in the short round (7.0) and placing fifth in the opening go (7.6). The tandem of Quentin Sawyer and Will McCraw split first in the second round with a 7.0, split second in average (14.9), and split sixth in the first go (7.9). Thrasher and Styles also joined forces to place fourth in the first round (7.3), sixth in the short go (15.8), and sixth in average (23.1).

Ryan McDaniel was one of just four competitors to accrue points in bull riding. His 84 points in the second round proved to be the best score in the field.

UT Martin returns to action when it travels to Marshall, Mo. for a rodeo hosted by Missouri Valley College on Sept. 20-22, 2018.

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