EMCC women win fall rodeo finale, men place third at Murray State event
MURRAY, Ky. — The East Mississippi Community College rodeo teams closed out the fall portion of their 2021-22 NIRA Ozark Region schedule on a high note by winning the women’s competition and placing third in men’s action this past weekend at the 46th Annual Murray State University Racer Roundup College Rodeo. The three-day event concluded Saturday evening at the Bill Cherry Expo Center.
Individually, EMCC’s competitors claimed three event titles, headlined by reigning College National Finals Rodeo reserve champion Jaylie Matthews continuing her barrel racing dominance. On the men’s side, brothers Cooper and Cade Cowan, out of Marshall Academy, captured their second straight regional event team roping title, while reigning CNFR participant Myles Neighbors earned his fifth career event win in Ozark Region steer wrestling competition.
In claiming their 11th NIRA Ozark Region women’s event team title in school history and second of this year’s fall campaign, the EMCC women have now collected five region event team titles during the past two seasons combined. Along with winning at Three Rivers College last month in Sikeston, Mo., they claimed three regional event women’s team titles a year ago on the way to earning a school-first NIRA Ozark Region regular-season team championship and posting a program-best, fourth-place team finish at this past June's College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
Leading the way again for the EMCC women’s team during the Ozark Region’s fall finale, Jaylie Matthews earned her fourth regional barrel racing win during the five-event fall season after previously prevailing at Missouri Valley, West Alabama and Southern Arkansas. With times of 14.32 and 14.49 seconds at Murray State, she collected 170 points to claim her 11th career Ozark Region regular-season barrel racing victory. The 2019-20 Ozark Region champion previously secured three first-place finishes during the pandemic-shortened season two years ago and followed up with four titles in her specialty event last year.
Placing ahead of co-runners-up Pearl River CC and West Alabama, the EMCC women racked up 265 of their 375 total points this past weekend in the barrel racing competition. Mikayla Joh Almond (Olin, NC) and Taycie Matthews finished with 50 and 45 points, respectively.
The Matthews sisters, from Wynne, Ark., have now combined to earn 17 career Ozark Region barrel racing event wins between them dating back to the 2019-20 rodeo season. Taycie won five times last year on the way to claiming the 2020-21 Ozark Region regular-season barrel racing title. In addition to having teamed to win all five barrel racing events this fall season in Ozark Region competition, the Matthews sisters combined to claim nine of the 10 Ozark Region regular-season barrel racing events during the 2020-21 season.
EMCC’s other 110 women’s points earned at Murray State this past weekend were collected by 2021 CNFR participant Blair Bryant (Hatchechubbee, AL). With her times of 2.7 and 3.3 seconds, the Ozark Region’s reigning breakaway roping champion placed third in the fall finale.
In men’s competition to conclude the fall slate, the Lions totaled 465 points in three events to finish behind runner-up UT Martin (560 pts) and team champion Missouri Valley College (1,060 pts).
Reigning CNFR participant Myles Neighbors (Benton, AR) garnered his fifth career Ozark Region steer wrestling event title by amassing the maximum 180 points with winning times of 4.0 and 4.1 seconds at Murray State. Neighbors previously claimed region event wins during the first three rodeos of the 2019 fall season en route to being declared the Ozark Region steer wrestling champion during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. He also won the 2020 fall season opener at Missouri Valley.
Headlined by the Cowan brothers winning their second straight team roping title to close out the Ozark Region’s fall schedule, the EMCC men tallied a total of 195 team points during the team roping competition this past weekend. In addition to the 170 team points earned by the Cowans after posting times of 5.7 and 5.6 seconds, Neighbors and Scooba product Matt Watt added 25 more points between them by pairing with Southern Arkansas team ropers Garrett Lock and Booker McCutchen, respectively.
Aided by a winning second-round time of 10.1 seconds, Watt rounded out the Lions’ third-place total of 465 team points by collecting 90 points for his fourth-place finish in the tie-down roping event. Teammate Kota Wilhite, a former Kossuth High School standout, also advanced to Saturday’s championship round in tie-down roping after winning the first round with a 10.3-second clocking.
Coach Morgan Goodrich’s East Mississippi rodeo teams will head to the midseason break ranked atop the Ozark Region women’s team standings and third on the men’s side, while also currently owning respective national rankings of No. 5 and No. 20 within the NIRA standings.