CASPER -- Payton Donnelly should know that father knows best.
The University of Wyoming junior had one of her worst weeks of practice at home in South Dakota leading up to the first day of competition Sunday at the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center.
It took her dad, Cory, to sit her down and try to get her head right.
“He just told me to relax and said, ‘You know what you are doing,’ ” Donnelly said. “When I got to Casper, I wasn’t nervous at all because we had a rodeo here earlier in the spring. I just told myself this is just another rodeo. I knew what I’m doing, and I know my horse will do great.”
That pep talk from her dad seemed to pay off, as the Elk Point, S.D., product came out firing in the first section of breakaway roping during the afternoon session of “Bulls, Broncs and Breakaway.”
Making her first appearance at the CNFR, Donnelly had a successful opening breakaway roping time of 2.5 seconds, splitting the time with five other competitors.
Donnelly and the other five ropers are tied for sixth place after the first round of competition. Taylor Munsell from Northwest Oklahoma State University and Quinn Segelke from Chadron State College lead the 49 breakaway ropers with times of 2.1 seconds.
Donnelly’s Sunday effort gave the Cowgirls 10 team points.
“I’m happy the first one is out of the way. It’s a huge relief,” Donnelly added.
Leading up to the CNFR, Donnelly said nothing seemed to go right for her in practice, adding that she was overthinking each throw, was leaning too much in the saddle and wasn’t even riding her horse properly.
“Really, everything that I know I’m not supposed to do, I was doing it wrong. I was getting pretty frustrated,” she said. “My dad helped to settle me down. He’s been my coach since I was little. He’s been coaching me in soccer, softball, basketball and definitely rodeo. He knows how my brain works, and he knows how I get frustrated. He’s right. He’s always right.”
It was not a good first round for the Cowgirls’ scoring leader. Teisha Coffield, the two-time regional breakaway roping champion, missed on her first calf and eliminates her from reaching Saturday’s finals. However, she can still add to the Cowgirls’ team output by scoring in the next two breakaway roping rounds.
Coffield, a senior from Yuma, Colorado, was the nation’s breakaway roping regular-season points leader. She also won the all-around title in the Central Rocky Mountain Region this season.
Only the top 12 individual times and point leaders during three rounds of competition qualify for the finals.
Both the Cowboys and Cowgirls won the CRMR team titles this past season. The remaining UW team members will begin competition during Monday’s slack round.