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Barnes Sisters Lasso BVU's First Rodeo Competitions

February 26, 2020 4:00pm

When sisters Micah and Mary Barnes stepped foot on the Buena Vista University campus, they didn’t realize they’d make history, the first competitors to officially represent the University in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association competition.

“We’re in the middle of our competitive careers right now,” says Mary, a sophomore business major who also plays on the Beavers basketball team. “It’ll be cool someday to look back on BVU rodeo and know that we helped get it all started.”

The Beavers rodeo team is one of several sports and club activities BVU continues to explore, outcomes of the Strategic Plan’s focused growth initiative. The others involve livestock judging, competitive gaming (E-sports), trap shooting, and women’s wrestling. These activities complement competitive dance and cheer teams, which now compete regularly.

“We’re thrilled to be able to expand the opportunities available for student-athletes,” says Jack Denholm, athletic director. “Studies show that students who participate in an activity outside of class, whether that’s a sport, or a musical activity, or a club on campus, those students have a much higher inclination to earn good grades and graduate. Studies have also shown that students who are involved in extracurriculars tend to be very productive employees once their working careers begin.”

Micah Barnes, a four-sport student-athlete at Alta-Aurelia High School, came to BVU as a freshman with designs on participating in rodeo as an independent. However, a broken ankle that didn’t heal (and broke again) sidelined those aspirations. Barnes, a senior biology major revisited the rodeo idea as a junior. President Joshua Merchant and faculty members were all supportive.

“If I missed class due to rodeo, my professors were all great about allowing me to make up assignments and exams,” Micah says. “I was really proud to have the BVU imprint on my rodeo vest.”

Sister Mary became part of the team during the fall, giving BVU a one-two punch in goat-tying, barrel racing, and breakaway roping, the three categories in which they compete in under the Great Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

“We compete in the spring and fall, doing rodeos in the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa,” Micah says, noting how competitors come from those states and Minnesota. Points earned at each stop accumulate with top finishers qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

Mary’s forte is barrel racing, while Micah’s strength is found in goat typing and breakaway roping. The daughters of Marty and Kendall Barnes, of rural Peterson, train on the family ranch, riding horses they raise. The family is well known in rodeo circles having supplied stock for high school, collegiate, and professional competitions across the U.S. for more than a half-century.

Marty Barnes serves as the BVU rodeo coach and often calls on his daughters to assist in handling stock when they’re not competing at collegiate rodeos.

“We were raised in the rodeo business,” Mary says. “It’s how a lot of people know our family.”

And, soon, rodeo might be another way in which people across the country come to identify BVU. If the interest on campus is any indication, the sport will continue to surge. Landon Sullivan, BVU instructor of animal science, is a former rodeo competitor who keeps a roping dummy in his office, allows Micah and Mary to work on their mechanics between classes.

“We can’t say enough about the support we’re receiving from the administration, the faculty and staff, and from students,” Mary says.

Tim McDaniel, BVU assistant professor of mathematics, illustrated the fact in returning a recent paper to Micah, an assignment she aced. “Professor McDaniel handed the paper back to me and said, ‘You rode this assignment for the whole eight seconds! Is that the right terminology? Did I say it correctly?’”

Micah smiles and says with a nod, “He said it correctly.”

(credit : Tim Gallagher at BVU)