EMCC women claim program-best, fourth-place team finish at College National Finals Rodeo 

Published 3:45 pm Monday, June 21, 2021

CASPER, Wyo. — Led by championship-round appearances from barrel racer Jaylie Matthews and breakaway roper Blair Bryant, the East Mississippi Community College women’s rodeo team earned a program-best, fourth-place team finish at this year’s College National Finals Rodeo.  The week-long National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association event concluded with Saturday night’s finals held at the Ford Wyoming Center.

Matthews’ second-place finish in the barrel racing competition and Bryant’s eighth-place tie in the breakaway roping event powered the EMCC women to 257.5 total team points to mark the highest East Mississippi team finish at the CNFR since the inception of the college’s rodeo program in 2010.  The EMCC women garnered this year’s CNFR team appearance by claiming the NIRA Ozark Region regular-season team championship for the first time in program history.

Coach Morgan Goodrich’s EMCC men’s team previously earned three consecutive top-10 national team finishes at the CNFR.  A fifth-place team finish in 2016 was followed by a No. 7 showing in 2017 and a 10th-place tie in 2018.

With four EMCC men’s competitors joining a quartet of EMCC women’s contestants at this year’s CNFR, the Lions placed 23rd in the final men’s team standings with 175 total points primarily as a result of a Round 3 first-place finish by the team roping tandem of former CNFR All-Around cowboy champion Marcus Theriot (Poplarville) and heeler Cole Curry (Liberty).  Their 4.7-second Friday night performance collected 160 combined points for EMCC and marked the best team roping effort of the week overall.

Following her point-producing runs of 14.32 (T-4th in Round 1), 14.18 (T-3rd in Round 2) and 14.20 (6th in Round 3) seconds during the week, Matthews (Wynne, Ark.) entered Saturday’s championship round leading the dozen finalists with an aggregate score of 42.70 seconds.  The 2019-20 Ozark Region barrel racing champion drew the final spot of Saturday’s random draw and needed a time of 14.13 or better to move ahead of Tayla Moeykens of Montana State for the title.  Matthews finished her finals run with a 14.43-second clocking to claim reserve champion honors ahead of third-place Abby Hepper of Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  With her sixth-place tie during Saturday’s championship round, Matthews finished the week securing 230 team points for the EMCC women.

As part of Saturday night’s post-CNFR awards presentation, Matthews’ horse, Feelin the Firewater, was named Women’s American Quarter Horse Association Horse of the Year.

Matthews’ younger sister, Taycie (Wynne, Ark.), collected 20 points for her seventh-place finish (14.22 seconds) in the second round of barrel racing, though this year’s Ozark Region barrel racing champion came up just short of advancing to Saturday’s championship round following Friday’s third-round effort of 14.30 seconds.

Bryant (Hatchechubbee, Ala.) entered Saturday’s breakaway roping finals tied for fourth place with an aggregate score of 9.5 seconds after recording consistent efforts of 3.6, 3.1 and 2.8 seconds to improve each run during the week’s first three rounds.  However, this year’s Ozark Region breakaway roping champion was one of five finalists who failed to post a time in the championship round.  Bryant’s eighth-place tie in the finals netted her 7.5 team points.

On the men’s side, EMCC’s West Smith (Emmet, Ark.) collected 15 team points for his seventh-place tie in Round 1 of tie-down roping with a run of 9.8 seconds.  Theriot, the 2016 CNFR tie-down roping national collegiate champion, struggled somewhat in his specialty event this past week with times of 16.5 and 20.2 seconds during the first two rounds.

Rounding out EMCC’s school-record of eight CNFR participants at this year’s event, Myles Neighbors (Benton, Ark.) and Nikayla Brill (Summerdale, Ala.) posted first-round scores in steer wrestling and breakaway roping, respectively, but neither could manage timed efforts during the final two rounds.

In the final team standings of this year’s College National Finals Rodeo, Montana State University claimed the women’s title with 590 points, followed by Southwestern Oklahoma State (432.5), Cochise College (403.3), EMCC (257.5) and Weatherford College (240).  On the men’s side, Clarendon College registered a 100-point team win over Panola College (890-790 pts), while Casper College (755), Western Texas College (715) and Western Oklahoma State College (675) rounded out the top-five men’s teams.