After a great end to the season, the Trojan rodeo team will be sending six members to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, next week.
Trojans Stetson Aldridge, Cody Skelton, Jeb Brown, Whitney Hazouri, Justin Walker and Will Bradley will head to Casper for competition, which will run from June 12-18.
Aldridge, a senior from Folkston, Ga., will be representing Troy for a second consecutive year in calf roping. Last year, Aldridge finished sixth nationally in the event and he captured the Ozark Region crown this season to earn a return trip.
"He has the most experience at the finals," Troy coach Josh Simmons said.
Freshman Cody Skelton, a native of Holly Springs, Miss., will also be competing in calf roping. Skelton came to Troy in the middle of the year as a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia.
"Cody Skelton really seasoned this year," Simmons said. "He's really fundamental in how he ropes."
Skelton said that making the move to Troy during the season was the best thing he could have done.
"I started the year in junior college and it was pretty rough," Skelton said. "Josh talked to me toward the end of the first semester about coming to Troy and after I talked to a lot of people here I decided it would be a good place for me. When I got to Troy I was 10th in the Ozark Region, but I finished third and was only 45 points behind second. Coming to Troy had a big impact on me and on my roping."
Skelton said his new teammates were as much a part of his success in the second half of the year as anything.
"Stetson helped me out a lot," Skelton said. "I went and stayed with him at the end of the semester and working with him and his dad has helped shorten my times a lot. The big thing Stetson has taught me is to win on the good ones and place on the bad ones. He is always there to help me. Everyone on our team is that way. We are all trying to help each other get better with encouragement."
Freshman Jeb Brown of Hamilton, Ga., and junior Whitney Hazouri of Jacksonville, Fla., will be competing in the team-roping event. Brown will be heading and Hazouri will be heeling. Hazouri is the only member of the women's rodeo team going to the finals.
"Whitney is a very good leader," Brown said. "She is easy to work with, and has one of the best work ethics on the team."
Freshman Justin Walker from LaBelle, Fla., will be competing in the bull-riding competition. He is the only rough stock rider to reach the finals from Troy and will be the first competitor to ride on the opening day of the week-long event.
"I've been trying to keep in shape and get on practice bulls here," Walker said.
Senior Will Bradley from Kossuth, Miss., will be competing in his main event, calf roping, as well. Bradley is the Ozark Region student director and gets a bye into the national finals.
Skelton said all of the Trojans are going to Wyoming with one thing in mind – winning.
"A friend of mine who has been to the college finals said the goal when you get there is first, and only first," Skelton said. "You don't go out there to finish second or third. I expect to come back with gold on my waist, that is something my dad has always taught me. He has always pushed me to do the best I can."