Golden loop: College senior finishes strong at national finals

By Paris Walther | Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013

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Alvord’s Clayton Shaw earned his trip to the College National Finals Rodeo by winning the collegiate Southwest Regional Tiedown Championship.

At the finals, which were held in Casper, Wyo. June 9-15, Shaw was Reserve Champion in tiedown and helped his team, Tarleton State University, capture third place all-around.

Out on Top

OUT ON TOP – Clayton Shaw turned in times of 8.9, 10.0, 9.8 and 10.4 for an average of 39.1 seconds during the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. Courtesy of Hubbell Photography

“It was my first time to win the tie down for the region,” he said. “It was a goal I set at the beginning of the year. The top three go to nationals, but I didn’t want to just be in the top three – I wanted to win.”

More than 400 contestants from over 100 universities and colleges compete in Casper each year after earning a spot at one of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s 11 regionals. The top three in each event, and the top two men’s and women’s teams, qualify for the CNFR.

“I guess I worked as hard as anybody,” Shaw said. “We would work out in the morning and rope in the afternoon for four to five hours. Some days I would work on the little things in my roping and other days I would just work out.”

He sharpened not only his physical game, but his mental edge as well.

“I just learned a lot more this year, and worked on my mental game more than before,” he said. “I learned to stay focused and not let my mind slip; it’s just a step-by-step process.”

Coming into the CNFR as a regional winner, Shaw found ways to stay focused and keep his nerves under control.

“You just have to remember that it’s just another rodeo,” Shaw said. “You just have to do the same thing and stick with the basics. If you aren’t nervous, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

At the finals, Shaw placed in the first round with an 8.9. He wound up with 135 points to win the reserve championship.

“I wanted to win because it was my senior year,” he said. “But I can’t be upset with Reserve. You just have to be happy and take the positives.”

Tarleton sent 11 members to the Finals – four women and seven men.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re competitive, but we’re always pulling for each other, and that makes it more fun to compete.

Mark Eakin, Tarleton’s rodeo coach, praised the team’s efforts.

“Between the two teams we won six go-rounds, which was amazing,” Eakin said. “I am very proud of everyone who represented Tarleton at this year’s CNFR.”

As the awards wrapped up, Shaw’s horse Cowboy, came out on top as the men’s Horse of the Year for 2013.

“I knew I had a good horse,” he said. “But it wasn’t expected at all. I was pumped when I found out because I try to work really hard on my horsemanship.”

Points for Horse of the Year are earned throughout the CNFR and are given based on performance in each round. Shaw’s horse showed the judges tremendous athleticism and talent.

“He’s a freak athlete and one of the main reasons for my success. It just comes easy for him. If he does something wrong, I don’t have to get onto him – I just have to correct him one time because he’s smart.”

With college behind him, Shaw plans to continue to rodeo competitively on the professional circuit.

“I have no other goal but to make the NFR (National Finals Rodeo),” he said. “I want to become a world champion.”

As he works hard to earn his spot, Shaw suggests that younger competitors learn as much as they can.

“My biggest piece of advice for young kids trying to make it big in rodeo is to go to school,” Shaw said. “You don’t have to jump out and start rodeoing full-time after high school. If you want to go pro, work hard in college and put your whole heart into it.”

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