EMCC rodeo team set to host annual collegiate event in Meridian
SCOOBA — Exciting collegiate rodeo action returns to the Lauderdale County Agri-Center this week as East Mississippi Community College’s 9th Annual Intercollegiate Rodeo kicks off Thursday in Meridian. The three-day event will conclude with Saturday night’s championship round.
Previously postponed due to last month’s wintry weather throughout the region, this will mark the fifth straight year that EMCC has hosted a collegiate rodeo in Meridian.
Gates will open at 7 p.m. nightly. Tickets at the door are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Admission is free for children age 5 and younger.
Men’s and women’s rodeo teams from several colleges and universities that comprise the Ozark Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) will compete in the event, including in-state foes Pearl River Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College as well as the University of West Alabama.
Competitive events include bareback riding, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, goat tying, team roping, barrel racing, and bull riding.
Children’s events will include a calf scramble for those age 6-10 and a pig scramble for children 5 and younger.
The EMCC-hosted Meridian rodeo marks the spring opener for the NIRA’s Ozark Region. Regional events are also scheduled to be held this spring in Poplarville (March 25-27), Monticello, Arkansas (April 1-3), Martin, Tennessee (April 15-17) and Senatobia (April 22-24) with the ultimate goal of reaching the 2021 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR), to be held June 13-19 in Casper, Wyoming.
“We always enjoy hosting this rodeo in Meridian and we encourage everyone to come out to the Lauderdale County Agri-Center to support all of the outstanding student-athletes who will be competing. It should be a very entertaining three nights of college rodeo competition,” said EMCC’s reigning Ozark Region Coach of the Year recipient Morgan Goodrich.
As the spring rodeo season gets underway, the East Mississippi men’s and women’s teams both rank among the NIRA’s top 10 national standings based on fall season results. The EMCC men are presently ranked eighth nationally and third regionally with 2,340 total points, while the women’s team currently leads the Ozark Region team standings and sits ninth nationally with 1,235 total points.
Individually for the EMCC men’s team, former CNFR all-around national champion Marcus Theriot (Poplarville) ranks second nationally in tie-down roping as well as in the men’s all-around competition for the 2020-21 college rodeo season. He is also currently ranked ninth nationally and third regionally in steer wrestling.
Also for the EMCC men, reigning top-ranked collegiate steer wrestler Myles Neighbors (Benton, Ark.) ranks fourth in the region and tied for 19th nationally in his specialty event. In addition, Matt Watt (Scooba) is tied for second regionally and tied for 16th nationally among team roping headers, while three other EMCC team roping headers (West Smith, Nick Gonzales & Theriot) and two team roping heelers (Clay Green & Cole Curry) are all ranked among the top 10 regional leaders.
In women’s Ozark Region competition, EMCC heads into the spring rodeo season holding a narrow 75-point lead over Missouri Valley College in the team standings. A year ago as Ozark Region reserve champions, the EMCC women qualified for the 2020 CNFR but did not get the opportunity to compete at nationals because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EMCC women’s team was led throughout the fall season by freshman Taycie Matthews (Wynne, Ark.), who hails as the nation’s top-ranked collegiate barrel racer after winning four of the five event titles during the Ozark Region’s fall slate. Her older sister, Jaylie, currently stands third in the region and 16th nationally after previously finishing the abbreviated 2019-20 NIRA season as the nation’s top-ranked collegiate barrel racer.
Also for the Lady Lions, Kyla Matthews (Athens, Tenn.) presently ranks second in the region and sixth nationally in breakaway roping.