By Dave Wagner
Eastern New Mexico University freshman Raelyn Gardner has something to live up to in the school’s rodeo program.
The daughter of former ENMU rodeo standouts, Gardner made her mark in the school’s College Daze Rodeo over the weekend at Lewis Cooper Arena. In her first collegiate competition, she was second in the short-go and second in average in goattying competition in the school’s College Daze Rodeo.
Her performance accounted for 60 of ENMU’s 75 points in the women’s division of the 16-school event. The Zias finished fourth in team standings, trailing Tarleton State (195 points), New Mexico Junior College (130) and Texas Tech (80).
West Texas College was the men’s team winner with 235 points, followed by West Texas A&M (210), Texas Tech (200) and Vernon College (150). ENMU was 10th with 15 points.
Gardner, a Lovington High graduate, said she was pleased with the way things went.
“It’s just like high school rodeo, just with older people,” she said. “I knew some of the (other competitors) from junior rodeos and stuff like that.
“I thought it went real, real well. We didn’t have any complications that I know of.”
Gardner’s mother, the former Anna Crispin, was an all-around champion at the College National Finals Rodeo while at ENMU in the early 1980s. Her father, Frank Gardner, represented ENMU in both bareback riding and calf-roping at the CNFR.
They tried not to place any burdensome expectations on their daughter.
“When I left home my mother told me I didn’t have to fill her shoes,” said Gardner, who has been rodeoing competitively since she was about five. “I kind of feel obligated, though, but we’ll see what happens.”
ENMU rodeo coach David Browder said she more than held her own.
“It’s pretty exciting to get a kid here whose parents were successful here in rodeo,” he said. “You just know she’s going to do well.
“I’ve heard people say she’s the spitting image of her mother on a horse.”
The Zias’ other points came from sophomore Tonya Bixler of Aztec, who split third and fourth place in the long-go in goattying. Bixler was fourth in the event last year in the Southwest Region, just missing a trip to the CNFR.
Portales sophomore Brittany Bennett finished third in the long-go, first in the short-go and second in average in barrel racing, but she was not among the four women designated for team points going in.
That may change, Browder said, when ENMU competes at Sul Ross State in two weeks.
“She certainly has shown me it might be worth putting her on the team at the next rodeo,” he said.
Sophomore Stetson Herrera of Durango, Colo., accounted for the men’s points by splitting third and fourth place in long-go bareback competition.
Seniors Royce Lynch of Deming and James Gililland of Tularosa (team roping), freshman Jared Green of Socorro (bullriding) and senior Chance Pettigrew of Melrose (steerwrestling) all advanced through Thursday’s long-go to the weekend short-go for the men, while Kelcey Foreman of Elk City, Okla. (goattying) did likewise for the women.
Browder said while it was good to host a rodeo, he’s just as happy it’s in the books because of the work involved setting it up.
“The rodeo went really smooth, and the kids did a good job helping produce the rodeo,” he said. “But a hometown rodeo is not a hometown advantage because the kids have to produce the event itself.”