CASPER, Wyo. — Three Forks freshman Tayla Moeykens soared to Montana State's first-ever national championship in barrel racing Saturday night to pace the Bobcats to their third women's team crown at the 72nd College National Finals Rodeo at Ford Wyoming Arena.
Moeykens had her best night of the week, fashioning a time of 13.99 in the short go — the fastest time of the week for any barrel racer — to pass three opponents and win by .29 over freshman Jaylie Matthews of East Mississippi State Community College. Moeykens, who earned Women's Rookie of the Year honors, scored 360 points for the event as the Bobcats won their first championship since 2011 and third overall (1986).
MSU finished with 590 team points — and it could have been 735 — to romp past Southwestern Oklahoma State (432.5) and Cochise College of Arizona (403.3). Montana Western was 27th with 60 points.
Bobcat sophomore Shai McDonald of Gardiner wound up fourth in barrel racing after a time of 14.21. McDonald would've padded MSU's final score by 145 points, but she was not among the top four competitors the Bobcats decided to have scored entering the week.
MSU sophomore Paige Rasmussen of Belgrade, who went into the final night of the goat-tying competition in first place, appeared to have a national title wrapped up as well when she clocked a time of 6.3. But her goat refused to stay tied and Rasmussen was disqualified, dropping her to 12th. She earned 180 team points during the week; teammate Lindsey Pulsipher of Oakley, Idaho, was 13th.
Cochise's Jill Donnelly had the only sub-7-second run of the night among the top six in the average to win the national championship in barrel racing.
Rasmussen nevertheless shared Women's All-Around honors with Donnelly. She's MSU's first Women's All-Around winner since Jan Walter in 1971.
The MSU men finished 11th with 415 points and Montana Western was 22nd with 180. Clarendon College of Texas took the title with 890 points.
MSU's last individual national champion was Kate Sharon, who won the goat tying in 2011.
In her first year of college rodeo, Moeykens was ranked third in the country entering the CNFR after winning the Big Sky Region barrel racing title.
Also Saturday, MSU tie-down roper Caleb Berquist of LaCrosse, Washington, dropped to second for the event after a time of 18.1, his first above nine seconds. He dropped behind Macon Murphy of Panola Junior College, who won by 5.2 seconds with his 9.8.
Murphy's father, K.C., was a member of MSU's 1988 national championship team.
Fellow tie-down roper Levi Delamarter, a junior from Longview, Washington, had a no score Saturday and finished eighth.
Despite falling short in his bid to become the program's first national champion in tie-down roping, Berguist nevertheless becomes the second to finish runner-up. Casey Currey also was "reserve champion" in 2006.
The last men's individual champion for MSU was Jason Jackson, who won the all-around in 1994 and 1995 and also took bareback in '94 and bull riding in 1995.
Montana Western steer wrestler Bryce Harrison of Condon, Oregon, finished a big week by earning a time of 4.6 in the short go to finish third nationally. He had a 29.2 average for the week and registered 120 points for the Bulldogs.
Also in steer wrestling, MSU junior Cody Faulkner of Gooding, Idaho, was ninth after a time of 11.5 in the short go for an average of 47.0. He did not earn any team points.
UMW's Brody Smith of Oakley, Idaho, finished eighth in the bareback riding with an 80.5 in the short go, his best score of the week on the way to a 307.5 total. Smith scored 60 points for the Bulldog men.