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Eastern Oregon University’s Justin Jarvis, of Mountain Home, Idaho, will compete in tie-down calf roping at the NIRA Finals. EOU is currently the only four-year university in Oregon with a recognized NIRA team.
CASPER, Wyo. — Countless hours of practice and travel are paying off for Justin Jarvis and Seth Shelton as they make final preparations for their appearance at the Super Bowl of college rodeo.
Jarvis and Shelton will represent the Eastern Oregon University Rodeo Club at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) Finals in Casper, Wyo., June 10-16.
Annie MacKenzie, NIRA Northwest regional student director and fellow EOU student from Warden, Wash., will join them and also compete in breakaway roping.
This is the first year since 2006 that EOU has had a competing NIRA team.
With two of its members qualifying for nationals, everyone’s spirits are riding high.
“It’s crunch time,” said Shelton, a senior from Kennewick whose specialty is bareback riding.
“I’ve always wanted to compete in the college national finals rodeo and it’s awesome to achieve that goal.”
The team made appearances at 10 regional rodeos with the final qualifying event held in Hermiston in May.
Once there, Shelton found himself among fewer than a dozen other bareback riders who had made it that far.
Jarvis, a senior from Mountain Home, competes in tie-down calf roping. He faced more than 30 contenders in the timed event.
“There is a lot of mental preparation involved,” Jarvis said. “Repetition is key to finishing the fastest.” JoLyn Scott, the club’s adviser, and coaches Travis and Shonda Hampton and Jim Weiser, traveled with the team to almost every rodeo this season.
“We were on pins and needles!” Scott said, recalling that pivotal day in Hermiston where only the top three competitors from each event advanced to nationals.
“Our team really laid it all out there and this is a huge accomplishment,” Hampton said. “The national finals are like the Super Bowl for college rodeo.”
Hampton was a member of the EOU Rodeo Team when she was a student and now supports her husband Travis with his duties as coach.
“Without Shonda and JoLyn, we wouldn’t be nearly as organized as we are,” Shelton said.
EOU is currently the only four-year university in Oregon with a recognized NIRA team. There are 16 members this year and interest has been gaining momentum, with scholarships and other incentives available to participants.
Next fall, the club will host a hometown rodeo in La Grande and is seeking businesses to help sponsor the event. Funds will also assist with the cost of travel and practice stock and facilities.