CASPER, WYO. – Veyo’s Milli Hughes was not the only one at the Casper Wyoming Events Center gasping for breath on Tuesday.
In a record-setting 5.7 seconds, Hughes made a clean break out of the gate, spanned half the length of the arena, lassoed, dismounted and tied her goat. The picture was seamless, almost too fast to take in, and practically perfect.
In her own words, “Everything was perfect except for one thing.” And that was the one thing that could either make or break the record-setting performance: “I didn’t tie the rope very tight,” the 19-year-old cowgirl said.
Hughes pulled her hands to her mouth as she stepped away from the goat and the crowd gasped with her. To qualify, the rope had to hold for a required six-seconds. And as if to listen to the ticking of the digital clock on the overhead screen, the Events Center fell to a silence as the goat worked to break free from what was obviously a loose knot. And the goat did break free, just as the clock rounded 6.00 seconds and the judge’s red flag fell to mark a qualified completion.
Cheers erupted from the silence of the arena as the announcer shouted, “Record. We have a record run here folks.”
Hughes pulled clear of her round-one competition to win the first go – which she ironically won at last year’s NCFR. Hughes will compete in two more go-round preliminary competition rounds to determine qualification for the final go-round later this week. Chelsea Moore of Gillette College and Jacalyn Walker of Central Wyoming College tied for second with identical times of 6.2 seconds.
“I can’t believe it,” Hughes said. “I just planned to go out and ride a smooth ride,” she said. “I was really holding my breath that the rope would hold, and I’m just so happy that it did. What a great feeling.”
Utah Valley University Rodeo Coach Shane Draper of Genola said, “Hughes ride was amazing. In all my years of rodeo, I’ve never seen a goat tied that fast.”
The previous National College Finals Rodeo (NCFR) and arena record of 5.9 seconds was set in 2007 by the University of Wyoming’s Nikki Steffes and Tarleton State University’s Kirby Eppert.
Hughes is representing Southern Utah University at CNFR among a registered 370 rodeo athletes competing from 130 colleges and universities across the country. The week long event will award some $35,000 in scholarships, prize money and coveted National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association titles.
The CNFR features nine rodeo events, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping and steer wrestling for the men, barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping and team roping. Along with individual titles, UVU competitors are hoping to be part of the team that takes the championship back to their university.
“Coming into this rodeo, we know we have what it takes to bring the title home,” said Draper. “All I expect is for these guys to come in and take care of business. They [have] proven that they know what to do and how to do it, it’s just a matter of getting good stock for them to ride and showcase each of their talents.”
Each contestant has three preliminary rounds of competition prior to the final round on Saturday night, June 18. Scores and times from those three rounds will be added up, and the 12 contestants with the fastest total times or highest total scores will advance to the finals.