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Coach predicts best team yet for WC rodeo

Johnny Emmons has been a part of a lot of great rodeo teams at Weatherford College, first as an assistant coach (2005-11) and as the head coach since 2012.

So when Emmons says this could be his best team yet, folks definitely stop and listen.

“I think we may have the best team we have ever had,” Emmons said. “I am excited to have Tyler Gifford on as my assistant coach. He has already made some positive contributions to the team with his expertise in steer wrestling and bronc riding. We have a great booster club and a lot of support from the WC administration. We are set and ready to have a great year.”

The Coyotes and Lady Coyotes are looking to be represented for a 15th consecutive season at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, next June. They return sophomores Lane Cooper (Weatherford) and Kirby Blankenship (Lampasas), who finished 10th in the nation last season in team roping at the CNFR. The duo are also the defending Southwest Region champions.

“I know they were disappointed with their CNFR debut and want to get back there to take care of business,” Emmons said.

Among the Lady Coyotes, CNFR qualifier Kelly Valdez (LaJunta, Colorado) returns in breakaway roping and barrel racing. She qualified for nationals in breakaway and also won the Scholar Award from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

Coyotes sophomore Leighton Berry (Weatherford) led the team last season with 810 points and is looking to qualify in two events, bareback riding and tie-down roping.

“LB has been pro rodeoing all summer, gained a world of valuable experience and comes in ready to start his second college rodeo season hungry,” Emmons said. “Chantz Webster (Decatur) is ready to start his second year. He is an outstanding tie-down roper and will also team rope with LB.”

Jacob Spencer (Blanco, New Mexico), former CNFR qualifier in bull riding for Western Texas College, should be a solid addition to the team. He took a year off to work in the oil field and then decided to go back to school and is looking towards a second CNFR qualification.

The Coyotes have several key returners, including team ropers Kade Smith (Post), Blake Bentley (Burleson), Tucker Menz (Boerne), Cooper Hatley (Lipan), Cuyler Winters (Venus), Sam Huffman (Belle Foursche, South Dakota) and Garret Sommer (Stetsonville, Wisconsin). Tie-down ropers back include Gage Glehorn (Weatherford), Sommer and Lance Smith (Tolar). Jack Mitchell (Twin Butte, Alberta, Canada) returns in saddle bronc and steer wrestling.

“All of these guys won points last year, and I am really excited about the talent they are all bringing back,” Emmons said.

Also back for the Lady Coyotes are Bristan Kennedy (Levelland) who finished sixth in barrels in the region last season, along with Taylor Schmidt (Barrhead, Alberta), Haley Bowen (Longandale, Nevada), Kaprina Jones (Newcastle, Wyoming) and Sara Angelone (Cross Junction, Virginia), all barrel racers.

“We have a very talented girls team and looking forward to their second year,” Emmons said.

In all, Emmons’ squad returns 28 athletes (16 men, 12 women). He brought in 24 freshmen (14 men, 10 women).

“We have an outstanding bunch of freshmen coming in, a couple of former national high school champs, several state high school champs, a world of talent,” Emmons said.

As for who might have a breakout season among the returners?

“For the guys, I am thinking Chantz Webster. He had a bad freshman year and took off another year to rodeo and work. I think he has grown up a lot and realized the importance of his education, and he has worked very hard over the past year or so to get back,” Emmons said. “And I know he is hungry and ready to make the CNFR.”

And while he’s confident the streak to Casper will continue in 2019, Emmons said past performances have no bearing on what lies ahead. It is a nice tradition, he said, but it is up to this year’s team to add to it.

“Rodeo is rodeo. A new day each day. Each rodeo is different, and its just a matter of taking care of business,” he said. “This is an extremely tough region. You can’t take anything for granted, and its up to our guys and girls to work hard, focus and keep their heads on straight.

“I think we have more than enough talent to make it 15 years in a row, but we have 10 regional rodeos to compete at first.”

Weatherford College 2018-19 Fall Rodeo Schedule

  • Sept. 20-22, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, New Mexico
  • Sept. 27-29, Sul Ross State University, Alpine
  • Oct. 4-6, Vernon College, Vernon
  • Oct. 11-13, West Texas A&M, Amarillo
  • Oct. 25-27, Texas Tech, Lubbock

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