After a long winter break, Navajo Technical University’s (NTU’s) rodeo team is looking to turn out a strong spring season, which continues this weekend at the Cochise College Rodeo in Fort Huachua, Arizona. The NTU rodeo team currently sits in 5th place in the Grand Canyon Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, and is looking to carry some momentum in their final push for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper, Wyoming, this June.
Leading the way for NTU has been the team roping duo of Taven Chavez and Tyson Charley. The header and heeler are 2nd in the standings after turning out a strong performance at the first rodeo of the spring season at the Grand Canyon Regional in Buckeye, Arizona. Bull rider Travis Silversmith has also contributed to NTU’s current team standing and is tied for 4th place with two other bill riders. Overall, NTU has five athletes ranked in the top 14 of their respective events, and several more are on the verge of a breakout season, according to NTU rodeo coach Nicole Pino.
“The men on my team are a group of 12 disciplined competitive athletes,” says Coach Pino, who is in her first year at the helm of NTU’s rodeo team. “I greatly appreciate their commitment and dedication throughout the year, not only in the arena, but with their education as well. My rodeo team balances classes, homework, and academic opportunities as well as practice. Not only do they acquire support, they offer their support to others.”
Part of the support Pino has been providing her team is extending practice time and allocated hours in NTU’s weight room. Pino has also secured her team a mechanical bull, which was wired by NTU electrical engineering student, Hansen Tapaha, to help them with their rides. In addition to practicing on the mechanical bull, Pino also hosts live runs once a week for her team.
Pino has also been connecting the team with surrounding communities for purposes of volunteer work. “Last semester we held a can food drive for senior citizens and then we set up times to chop wood for the elderly,” Pino proudly explains. “I also set up a college prep presentation in which the NTU rodeo team spoke with Crownpoint High School.”
Although Pino has kept her athletes busy with charitable duty, the team hasn’t lost its competitive focus. Over the break, many of NTU’s team members stayed active in their respective rodeo associations and two qualified for the Indian National Finals Rodeo. Saddle bronc rider Shoshane Kee placed 13th, overall after tallying an electric 80 point ride in the third round, while steer wrester Jared Pino threw all four of his steers en route to a 7th place finish.
Moving forward Coach Pino is expecting to qualify multiple athletes for the CNFR, as the team was able to do last year. Team roper Benji Sam had a tremendous finish to the season and left Casper ranked 3rd in the nation, while bull rider Archie Becenti Jr. qualified but failed to place.
NTU will have a busy month of March as they continue their quest for the CNFR. After the Cochise College Rodeo in Fort Huachua, the team will travel to Florence, Arizona, for the Central Arizona College Rodeo and then the University of Arizona Rodeo in Tucson. NTU currently trails Mesalands Community College by 80 points for 4th place, while Cochise College, New Mexico State University, and Central Arizona College round out the top three teams in the Grand Canyon Region standings.