For many students at UVU, their understandings of rodeos are limited to events put on by local cities during their celebrations. Pleasant Grove has their Strawberry Day’s Rodeo and Lehi recently had their 75th Annual Lehi Round-Up Rodeo to celebrate their city. While these local cities continue to sell out their seats, the Utah Valley University Rodeo team is performing on the national level. During the week of June 10-16, UVU’s Rodeo team competed in the College National Finals Rodeo, tying a third place spot.
“We are always trying to get our name out there, but there are a lot of people that don’t know we have a rodeo program,” head coach Shane Draper said. “We are just trying to get that more known and more known, but we do have pretty good support.” Utah Valley tied with Missouri State College, but the third place finish is the highest UVU has received since 2007 when the team placed second overall.
The finals rodeo saw 55 different schools competing, and Utah Valley brought nine of their riders. Two of the riders, Tag Elliott and Ben Carson, took home individual national titles. “After Tag got bucked off the second bull, he figured he didn’t have a chance to win,” Draper said. “But we ended up having him stay and he ended up winning it. We were proud of that.” Elliott won top honors in Bull Riding. His times of 83.5 followed by an 84.0 helped him to finish with the honors. But his finish was one that didn’t seem hopeful after being bucked off his second bull. “It didn’t work out exactly the way I would have wanted it to, but it ended up working out I guess,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t really that I had doubt, I just told myself that I was going to do better on my next ride and hopefully it will all work out.”
Carson’s individual national title came in the Steer Wrestling. For Carson, winning the title was a matter of going out every night and focusing on finished each ride individually. “There were four runs we had to make,” Carson said. “Rather than focusing on winning the whole thing, I just focused on winning each run. When it was all said and done it all just seemed to work together.”
Carson’s times of 4.8, 4.5, 4.4 and 4.2 seconds gave him with the national title. His motivation was strong after placing third for the individual title in the 2011 College National Rodeo. He came back this year knowing that he wanted to place in a better position. “Ben went through and just made nice smooth runs,” Draper said. “He didn’t try to hurry things, which is smart. He had smart runs and that is what it takes to win as far as the timed events go.”
The National Rodeo concluded the 2012 season, and after tying for third place in the Nation, UVU’s rodeo team will come back next year looking for a top finish to be crowned the winners of the College National Finals Rodeo. “I think they are capable of a National Title now,” Elliot said. “There are a lot of good kids coming down here. But with the new riders, I’m dang sure they have a chance.”
With six of the nine riders who participated in the finals coming back next year, both Draper and Elliot feel that the incoming cowboys are only going to help their fight. “We have guys coming in that are strong enough to replace the ones that left,” Draper said. “I feel pretty confident in our team next year, and we are really looking forward to it.”