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54th Annual UT Martin Spring College Rodeo


By Ryne Rickman; photos by UT Martin University Relations

MARTIN, Tenn. – For the first time in three years, the Ned McWherter Agricultural Pavilion was rocking at full capacity on April 7-9, 2022 for the 54th annual University of Tennessee at Martin Spring College Rodeo.

Saturday’s performance round was capped off with a touching tribute to head coach John Luthi, who announced in February that he is retiring at the end of the season. The Gridley, Kansas native has spent the last 25 seasons leading the UT Martin rodeo program and has been a collegiate head coach for 41 years.

The Skyhawk men’s team finished second in the team standings with 725 points – the team’s most points since a 975-point effort at Murray State on Nov. 21-23, 2019. On the women’s side, UT Martin posted 70 points, which led to a seventh-place finish.

Blake Leamon got things started in bareback riding as the senior out of Cleveland, Tenn. placed fourth in the short go with 73 points.

In calf roping, Cole Walker stood out as one of the best cowboys in the field. He registered the top time (9.5 seconds) in the short round and finished second in the opening go (10.5) and in average (20.0). Will McCraw additionally brought home points for UT Martin as his 11.3 in the first round was good enough for sixth.

Jack Smithson was equally impressive in saddle bronc riding, pacing the field in average (147). That came after he placed second in both the opening round and in the short go with scores of 75 and 72, respectively.

A trio of Skyhawk cowboys compiled points in steer wrestling, led by Logan Neal: third place with a 12.4 average, third place with a 6.7 short go, sixth place with a 5.7 first-round effort. Cole Harmon earned points in all three phases, generating fifth-place performances in average (14.9), short round (9.7) and first go (5.2). Jesse Keysaer split third with a time of 5.0 seconds flat in the opening round, leading him to a sixth-place finish in average.

Grace Bryant was responsible for points in the goat tying event, finishing third in the short go (7.0 seconds) and fourth in the average (14.3 seconds).

McCraw and Walker joined forces in team roping, managing the best first-round time in the event with a 6.4. The UT Martin tandem followed that with fifth-place efforts in the short go (13.3) and in average (19.7).

In barrel racing, Mollie Stroup cashed in points in all three phases – starting with an impressive 13.65 in the opening round that ranked second in the field. She eventually placed fifth with a 27.52 average after placing sixth in the short go (13.87).

Only three cowboys picked up points in bull riding and UT Martin’s Wyatt Hart was on the short list. The senior from Blaine, Tenn. placed second in average and in the opening round with a 78-point ride to start the event.

The Skyhawks resumed their spring slate at Arkansas-Monticello on April 21-23, 2022.

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