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EMCC Lions to be well represented at the College National Finals Rodeo in Wyoming

SCOOBA — As team champions of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s (NIRA) Ozark Region for the first time in school history, four members of the East Mississippi Community College women’s rodeo team, plus four individual members from the EMCC men’s team, are set to represent the Lions in the upcoming College National Finals Rodeo, June 13-19, in Casper, Wyoming.  EMCC’s school-record total of eight CNFR participants will compete for individual event championships during the week-long event to take place at the Ford Wyoming Center.

This season marks the second straight year that head coach Morgan Goodrich’s EMCC women’s team has qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo.  A year ago during the abbreviated 2019-20 rodeo season, EMCC finished as Ozark Region women’s team reserve champions and Goodrich claimed Coach of the Year regional honors.  Unfortunately, the 2020 CNFR did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After placing as the 2019-20 Ozark Region runners-up, this year’s EMCC women’s team finished 435 points ahead of reserve champion Missouri Valley College, while earning team honors at the Southern Arkansas and Arkansas-Monticello rodeos as well as their own annual event held in Meridian this past March.

In this year’s Ozark Region men’s standings, the EMCC Lions narrowly missed qualifying as a team for the CNFR by finishing just 140 points behind reserve champion UT Martin.

The East Mississippi rodeo program was also bidding to make school history this year by attempting to have both the men’s and women’s teams qualify for the CNFR during the same season.  Though the EMCC men came up just short this season, the Lions previously qualified for the 2017 CNFR as a team by finishing the Ozark Region regular season as men’s reserve champions in the midst of their three-year run with successive top-10 national finishes.     

For their collective regular-season Ozark Region performances, the EMCC women’s and men’s rodeo teams currently rank 12th and 13th, respectively, among the NIRA’s national team standings. 

On the women’s side, EMCC features two of the nation’s top barrel racers with the sister tandem of Taycie and Jaylie Matthews, who claimed champion and reserve champion regional honors, respectively, by combining to win nine of the 10 Ozark Region barrel racing events this season.  Taycie and Jaylie, from Wynne, Arkansas, are currently ranked second and 12th, respectively, among the top collegiate barrel racers in the NIRA’s national standings with 1,110 and 890 points.  Taycie won five regional barrel racing events this season as a freshman, while her older sister followed close behind with four titles this year to give Jaylie seven regional wins during her two-year EMCC career.  Jaylie was the NIRA’s reigning top-ranked barrel racer from a year ago before the coronavirus shut down the 2019-20 season in March.

The EMCC women will also have two student-athletes competing in the breakaway roping event at this year’s nationals.  Blair Bryant (Hatchechubbee, AL) claimed the Ozark Region individual title by totaling 588.3 points to rank seventh nationally, while Nikayla Brill (Summerdale, AL) will join Bryant in the breakaway roping competition.

In men’s competition at the upcoming College National Finals Rodeo, Marcus Theriot, a former national collegiate champion and six-year veteran of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), looks to again lead the way for the EMCC Lions.  The 2016 CNFR all-around champion cowboy and tie-down roping national champion earned his third NIRA Ozark Region tie-down roping title this year with 815 points to rank fifth nationally.  The Poplarville native will also compete with teammate Cole Curry (Liberty) in this year’s team roping event at nationals after finishing third within the region.  Theriot previously led the EMCC men to a fifth-place national team finish in 2016 and a seventh-place showing the following year. 

This year’s EMCC contingent headed to Wyoming will also feature regional reserve champions Myles Neighbors (Benton, AR) and West Smith (Emmet, AR) in the steer wrestling and tie-down roping events, respectively.  Neighbors was rated as the NIRA’s No. 1-ranked steer wrestler a year ago before the pandemic hit following his three consecutive regional event wins to begin the fall season.  Smith finished runner-up to Theriot in this year’s tie-down roping regional standings.

This year’s College National Finals Rodeo is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN3 with expanded livestream coverage beginning Tuesday (June 15) and running through Saturday night’s finals.  ESPN3 is available by downloading the ESPN app from the App Store or Google Play.  ESPN3 is also available for online viewing at ESPN.com.

Following three rounds of slack and performance competitions that take place through Friday night (June 18), the top 12 qualified contestants from each of the nine events will advance to Saturday evening’s championship round.  Online results from this year’s CNFR are slated to be available throughout the week at CNFR.com.

Showcasing more than 400 collegiate cowboys and cowgirls from four-year universities and two-year junior colleges located throughout the country, the College National Finals Rodeo is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) annually crowns individual event champions in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying.

The top two men’s and women’s teams from each of the NIRA’s 11 regions qualify for the CNFR.  Individually, the top three student-athletes in each event throughout the different regions also annually qualify to compete in the CNFR.

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