TEEC NOS POS, AZ – After a successful season competing in his first year with the Navajo Technical University rodeo team, bull rider Lyle Clark, 23, will try to capture a collegiate championship after qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper, Wyoming, June 15-21, 2014.
Clark earned his ticket to the CNFR in spite of missing the fall rodeo season because he wasn’t enrolled at NTU at the time. But after signing up for spring courses at NTU’s instructional site in Teec Nos Pos, Clark was on a roll, winning the University of Arizona rodeo in February and placing second at the New Mexico State University rodeo to close out the season. The two rides were enough to bump Clark into third place in the Grand Canyon Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), edging out Adriano Long of Mesalands Community College for the final CNFR spot.
“It was kind of a shock when I found out I qualified for nationals, but it was the greatest feeling,” said Clark, who resides in Kayenta, Arizona, and is the first NTU cowboy to qualify for the CNFR since roper Shane Jodie in 2011. “I was just happy and thankful that all the hard work I did paid off.”
Clark stated that he prepared himself all winter for the rodeo season after previously competing in the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association (AIRCA). The practice and conditioning he put in helped push him over the edge, but it was his family that brought him to the top.
Clark’s father, Virgil Clark, was a prominent bull rider and his grandfather, Stanley Young, is considered a legend in the rodeo circuit.RELATED: Diné Bull Rider Competes With the Best of the Best
“I’m really close with my family and they help me ride better,” explained Clark, who grew up behind the bucking chutes watching his father ride. “When I’m alone, I always call them and they give me good words to keep my confidence high. I’m thankful for that.”
“I’m very blessed to have such amazing friends and family, and I’m thankful to God for helping me through this,” said Clark. “I just want to be the best that I can be.”
Although Clark will be competing against the top 24 bull riders from the NIRA’s eleven regions nationwide, he has no plans on slowing down after the CNFR.
“I have one more year after this, so I don’t want to just stop here. My goal is to sit first and come back for the nationals again. Not just for the college association, but professional too,” said Clark. “It’s all up to me.”
For more information on the College National Finals Rodeo, please visit CNFR.com. For more information about Navajo Technical University’s rodeo team, contact coach Joelsen Yazzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.