Tayla Moeykens and Trav Johnson lead MSU Bobcats in CNFR lull

CASPER, Wyoming – Led by two veterans, the Montana State rodeo team put on a solid first full day of competition at the 2024 College National Finals Rodeo on Monday.

Moeykens, a former national champion in barrel racing, finished third in the first round of that event with a time of 14.03 on Monday morning at the Ford Wyoming Center. Sophomore Jaden Whitman finished fourth in the first round of steer wrestling (4.8).

“Tayla and Trav both did well,” said MSU head coach Kyle Whitaker. “Those are definitely highlights. It was a good day and they both had really strong runs.”

Whitaker praised Moeykens' consistency.

“It's pretty remarkable how many times Tayla has been in the top four in a single heat here in barrel racing,” he said. “She's so consistent, there aren't many people you can count on to do so well every single time.”

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Monday's barrel racing was Moeykens' 13th at the Wyoming Ford Center during CNFR competition. She has won five of those heats, finished in the top five eight times and in the top 10 11 times.

“I like racing there,” she said last week about Casper's arena. Then she smiled. “Because I've always raced well there.”

As impressed as Whitaker is with Moeykens, Johnson is approaching that level of consistency.

“Trav is on his way there,” Whitaker said. “He really is. He's had a good, solid run.”

Whitman's fifth run at the CNFR proved to be his fastest, as he posted a 4.8 on Monday to place fourth in the short run. As a freshman last year, he placed 23rd in the first round (12.3), sixth in the second (5.6), 13th in the third (6.0) and fifth in the short run (5.3).

Each Bobcat completed the first round of their discipline by Monday afternoon. After Montey Bailey was knocked off in the first round of saddle bronc, his 70 points in the second round were enough for ninth place. Freshman Cole Gerhardt was knocked off his first saddle bronc and placed 25th in the first round of steer wrestling. Bode Spring placed 10th in the first round of tie-down roping, while Wyatt Jensen placed 17th and Wes Shaw missed his calf. Jaden Whitman placed 14th in the first round of steer wrestling, while Wes Shaw placed 15th in the first round of bareback.

“Jaden Whitman ran a good race with his steer,” Whitaker said. “It was a tough race. Bode Spring and Wyatt Jensen both had good results in tie-down roping.”

After failing to beat her first calf in breakaway roping on Sunday, Moeykens scored a 3.9 on Monday and is in 17th place in the second round. Meghan McGinley also failed to score a point with her first head in this event.

“I had high hopes for Meghan, but she has a chance to score points and I know she will do well,” Whitaker said. “Tayla had a good run, but her calf almost stopped before she broke the rope.”

Breyer Newman finished 11th in the first attempt at Goat Tying and Jessica Stevens took 13th place. Alexis McDonald's 14.55 in Barrel Racing was enough for 25th place in the round.

“CNFR is about not making mistakes,” Whitaker said. “Even if you don't place in a round, you don't want to make a mistake and take yourself out of the (competition) average. That's the key. We can still achieve all of our goals even if we didn't score as many points as we wanted in the first round.”

Most of the Bobcats return to competition on Tuesday, with Wes Shaw (bareback) and Moeykens (breakaway) pulling the evening effort. Monte Bailey has Tuesday off, while the other nine compete in the slack on Tuesday morning.

Five Bobcats opened the 2024 College National Finals Rodeo on Sunday, with Shaw leading the way in bareback riding.

Shaw shot a 74 in Sunday's first round — billed as Bulls, Broncs and Breakaway — as the CNFR opened the competition. MSU's four other Sunday participants failed to score.

Anna Harden

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