By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
With the start of their season just two weeks away, Eastern New Mexico University’s rodeo teams are hard at work.
This year that work is happening under the watchful eye of first-year coach Albert Flinn. He says he likes what he sees for the most part.
“(The mens) team is probably as solid as it was last year,” Flinn said. “We’ve got three boys on the team that accumulated points last season toward the National Finals.”
The mens team returns two of four members who went to the College National Finals Rodeo last season. Steer wrestler Cody Heck and rough stock rider Jared Green aren’t returning but team roper Tyrell Flewelling of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, who finished first at the CNFR in Casper, Wyo. last year and Kyle Roberts who finished third in the same event both return as seniors.
“It doesn’t really stop for us,” Flewelling said of his preparation for the season.
He said it was exciting to get the college season under way but said that after finishing up at the CNFR in April he roped all summer.
Flewelling, an Ag Economics major, has his younger brother Tell Flewelling on the team and at ENMU to keep him company but he admits being 2,500 miles from home is a hardship. The Canadian, who specializes in heeling, says he’s learned a lot at ENMU and appreciates the opportunities he’s had.
That said, he figures he can’t let up in his last year of collegiate rodeo.
“My goal is to get back to the College National Finals,” Flewelling said. “I’m just going to go out there and rope every steer.”
Flinn says the men’s team will also benefit from rough stock rider sophomore Rankin Lindsey, who finished fourth in the region last year in bull riding.
Flinn says the womens team will be young but should still have the ability to contend in the region if the underclassmen step up.
The Zias lose Raelynn Gardner but have picked up a pair of junior transfers that should provide experience for the team.
Kacey Kobza joins the team after transferring from Vernon College. She competes in goat tying and breakaway roping.
Joni Brakebill, who grew up in Roosevelt County, has transferred back from New Mexico State University this year. She will compete in breakaway, barrel racing and possibly team roping.
Other Zias to watch according to Flinn are sophomore Stacy Merritt of Corona in breakaway and barrels and Casey Danley, a sophomore from Alamogordo who runs breakaway, goat tying and barrels.
“I understand what it takes to be winners,” Flinn said. “It takes a lot of practice to be really competitive.”
He said if he can instill that in his teams the rest of his job — recruiting — will be easy.
Flinn says that will be a major focus for him and last year’s success will help.
“I’m optimistic enough to feel we’ll have some continued success and build off of what we did last year,” he said.
ENMU opens its season with the College Daze home rodeo on Sept. 18-19.