Casper College barrel racer Makayla Seely knew she would be in first place after her first run at the College National Finals Rodeo on Monday morning. She didn’t expect to still be there when the first go-round ended.
The freshman from Riverton was the first barrel racer to turn the cloverleaf and finished with a 14.32-second run shortly after 7 a.m. Forty-four barrel racers then had a chance to knock Seely from the top spot, and all of them came up short.
“I just went in with the plan of having a smooth, clean run and making it through the first round,” Seely said. “Obviously, everybody wants to win it, but that wasn’t really my plan. I just wanted to go out and get the first round out of the way and be top 10.”
Seely needed a late surge to hold onto the No. 3 spot in the Central Rocky Mountain Region standings and qualify for the CNFR. She has Kathy Ruby, her grandmother on her mother’s side, to thank for allowing that to happen. After her normal barrel horse got sick, Seely was able to ride Ruby’s horse “Sis” in the final three regional rodeos.
Seely and Sis have been on the big stage before.
“My grandparents stay in Arizona during the winter and they got back just before the Fort Collins rodeo,” Seely said, “and they let me ride her the last three rodeos. I rode her my junior year of high school and she took me to the high school national finals. Now she’s taken me to the college finals.”
Seely has a simple explanation to why she hasn’t been riding Sis on a regular basis.
“My grandma still runs barrels,” she said, “and she enjoys winning too.”
Seely admitted to being anxious before her run, but not because it was the college finals.
“It was kind of last minute, but I decided to change bits that I was using on her,” Seely said. “I was a little nervous. I actually forgot hers at home. Irresponsible, but I did it.
“Today coming to the first barrel I was a little worried, but I think she worked better than she ever has. It worked out perfect. Every time I asked her to get ready to turn she was right there with me.”
After going first on Monday, Seely will be the last barrel racer down the runway in Tuesday’s slack. While she won’t have the luxury again of setting the mark for everyone else to beat, she doesn’t plan on doing anything differently.
“It’s nice because today I didn’t have to watch anybody, and tomorrow I’ll be warming up just about the time they get started,” she said. “So I won’t have to watch too many runs. It’s nice to just worry about running your own race and not worrying about other things.”
The University of Wyoming’s Rachael Calvo came closest to knocking Seely from the top spot as she put together a 14.38-second run to finish second. She was followed by the College of Southern Idaho’s Ashtyn Carlson (14.39) and Lassen College’s Hailey Finnegan (14.41). Defending national champ Kynzie McNeill of Oklahoma State tipped over a barrel and finished with a 19.50.