Area graduates capture titles at college nationals
June 18, 2017 at 10 p.m.
Updated June 18, 2017 at 10:10 p.m.
CASPER, Wyo. - Sixty-three.
That was all the points Sam Houston State University's Lane McGehee, a Victoria East graduate, needed in the championship round in bareback riding at the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center on Saturday.
After his eight-second ride atop Spicy Chicken, the scoreboard showed a different number.
"I flipped," McGehee said. "I jumped straight to my knees and thanked God. Then I went and hugged my coach (Bubba Miller)."
It was the first collegiate title for the freshman, who won two of three preliminary rounds and held first place with a 234.5 aggregate score heading into the final round Saturday.
McGehee's teammate, Loni Lester, a junior out of Gonzales, moved from second overall to win the breakaway roping title with a 2.7 in the championship round Saturday. She also won the women's all-around with 245 points.
"It was awesome," Lester said. "My horses were outstanding all week. My family, my boyfriend, my coach and his wife kept me going all week."
McGehee opened the first-go round last Sunday with an 80.1 for first place. His 73 in the second-go round Tuesday was fifth before his 81 in Thursday's third-go round led the leaderboard again.
"I had a 12-point lead going into the short round," McGehee said, "and if I scored 63, I would've won the national championship no matter what."
Lester turned in a seventh-place finish with a 2.7 in the first-go round last Sunday, a 2.7 for eighth place in Tuesday's second-go round and a 2.8 for seventh in Thursday's third-go round.
"I'm glad to be able to get into the college level and exceed in that," Lester said.
Sam Houston State's women team won the overall title with 485 points, followed by University of Wyoming's 355.
The Bearkats finished second with 715 to Panhandle State University's 827.5.
McGehee has been accustomed to professional rodeo and riders like his dad and trainer, Carl McGehee, who has 30 years of professional experience, and cousin and professional bull rider Brian Herman.
He needed some time to get accustomed to his national title Saturday.
"It didn't sink in for me," Lane McGehee said, "until I went to bed that night and I realized that I really did it. It's not a dream."