May 3, 2016

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s rodeo team earned the 2016 Ozark Region championship as the final regular season standings were released in anticipation of next month’s College National Finals Rodeo.

The Ozark Region title is the 14th since head coach John Luthi took over the UT Martin rodeo program in 1997. The UT Martin men’s team will enter the 2016 CNFR ranked third nationally with 5,945 points.

The UT Martin women’s team finishes the Ozark Region season ranking sixth in the team standings with 1,415 points.

A total of seven participants will represent UT Martin in the upcoming CNFR. Tanner Phipps (bareback riding), Slade Bronson (calf roping), Ben Walker (team roping, calf roping), Lane Mitchell (team roping) and Douglas Rich (team roping) will compete for the men’s team while Nealey Dalton (barrel racing) and Natalie Fletcher (breakaway roping) will make the trip to Casper, Wyo. on behalf of the women’s squad. To qualify for the CNFR, a cowboy or cowgirl must rank in the top-three in their region in their respective events.

Phipps, a senior out of Dalton, Ga., will be making his third career CNFR appearance. He ranks fifth nationally in bareback riding with 1,390 points.

A senior from Jennings, Fla., Bronson will be making his second career appearance in the CNFR.

Walker will serve as the header in team roping alongside his teammate Rich. This will be the third career CNFR appearance for the senior out of Sparta, Tenn.

Mitchell was the Ozark Region champion as a heeler in team roping, as he ranks fifth nationally with 670 points on the season. This will be the third career CNFR appearance for the senior from Bolivar, Tenn.

Rich is a heeler in team roping alongside Walker, as he ranks 19th nationally with 505 points. The junior from Herrick, Ill. will be making the second appearance of his CNFR career.

A senior from Adamsville, Tenn., Dalton is in line for her third career CNFR appearance. She currently ranks 13th in the nation with 800 points in barrel racing.

Also making her third career CNFR appearance is Fletcher, a senior out of Knoxville, Tenn.

Considered the “Rose Bowl” of college rodeo, the CNFR is set for June 12-18. The weeklong event in Casper, Wyo. is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual champions in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. More than 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges compete at the Casper Events Center every year, as contestants compete all year in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the CNFR. In addition to the top three students in each event, the top two men’s and women’s teams from the NIRA’s 11 regions qualify for the CNFR.

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