Hot on the heels of hosting its first home event, the Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s and women’s rodeo teams have experienced a lot of success lately.
But with the cancellation of the rest of the college rodeo season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is more evident now than ever, as the A&M-Commerce women’s team finishes the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the country for the first time. The men’s team also cracks the top 25, finishing with a ranking of No. 22 in the nation.
The teams’ success is just the latest step forward for a program that was formed in 2014. Head coach Dameon White also earned the respect of his peers, being named National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) Southern Region Coach of the Year for the third-consecutive season.
The program had the privilege of hosting its first home rodeo in February. White says that the weekend event at the Hopkins County Civic Center in Sulphur Springs, Texas was a resounding success.
“I think it went great, and the students love the opportunity to have a rodeo in front of friends, family and the community,” White said. “The venue estimated more than 5,000 people attended the rodeo over the weekend.”
Thankfully, the rodeo was held before the spread of the pandemic, which has cancelled many sporting events worldwide. All NIRA events for the rest of the season are cancelled, including the College National Finals Rodeo, scheduled for June.
Which means that the A&M-Commerce women’s team has the distinction of finishing the year on top of the standings in just the sixth year of the program. This puts them ahead of programs at Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Wyoming.
Many team members were ranked in the top 25 in the nation for their respective events. These include:
- Mia Manzanares, 1st in Women’s All-Around, 2nd in Breakaway Roping, 3rd in Goat Tying
- Whitley Whitewood, 2nd in Barrel Racing, 5th in Women’s All-Around
- Gavin Michel, 16th in Bull Riding
- Ty Harris, 2nd in Tie Down Roping
- Reid Halbert, 7th in Team Roping (Header)
- Trenton Norris, 17th in Team Roping (Header)
- Dane Reed, 8th in Team Roping (Heeler)
- Katie Boyd, 19th in Barrel Racing
- Abigayle Hampton, 6th in Breakaway Roping
White says it’s a special feeling to be the best in the nation.
“Anytime you can have a team be No. 1, it’s an awesome feeling,” White said. “These students work hard not just in rodeo, but in the classroom as well.”
He added that while recruiting has been challenging due to the pandemic, there is still a lot of hype surrounding the team.
“The Southern Region has already asked us to host another rodeo,” said White. “This program just keeps getting bigger and better every year.”