College champion goat tier Tawny Barry praises mom, dad for support
One small-town cowgirl left the little community of Carter, South Dakota, to seek opportunity in the Land of Enchantment, and became a national champion.
Tawny Barry, representing Eastern New Mexico University, is the 2017 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association champion goat tier. She tied each of her four goats in under seven seconds for an aggregate time of 26.1, topping the field of over 50 of the best goat tiers in the United States.
The college athlete attended Laramie County Community College to rodeo for the Golden Eagles as a freshman and sophomore. After graduating with Agricultural Science and Human Psychology degrees from Cheyenne, she decided to put on the green and black vest of the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds.
“I’d always wanted to go south. I figured if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it,” Barry said. Albert and Jenny Flinn, the rodeo coaches, offered Barry a scholarship, and she agreed to compete in the Southwest Region for two years. Barry misses home sometimes, and said “I’m honestly a big homebody, but I know this is only temporary.” The flexibility of online classes allow her to spend time in South Dakota, too.
Though it’s over 700 miles from home, she mentions that the competition didn’t change in her transition to the southwest United States. She said, “I can’t say that region’s tougher down there. You have tough girls everywhere you go.” Despite getting along with her teammates very well, Barry practiced by herself most of the year. She lived in Canyon, Texas with her boyfriend, Treg Schaack. Schaack was the 2017 Southwest Region champion tie-down roper, and provided Barry with encouragement in and out of the arena. “Being around someone so positive all the time is huge. The mental game is 99 percent of rodeo,” Barry said. Schaack’s support came into play at a very critical time for the Barry family.
Nine years ago, Tawny’s mother, Cleo, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was in remission, but it came back in August, 2015; ten days after Tawny moved to ENMU. “It was really hard. I wanted to come back home. I was regretting moving down there and living so far from home,” Barry said. However, Cleo encouraged her daughter to finish school and continue rodeoing. Tawny now had a bigger reason to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo, as Cleo wasn’t able to travel to the regional rodeos in New Mexico and Texas, due to her weekly treatments. Tawny would have to compete in Casper, Wyoming, for her mother to watch in the stands.
Compete she did. Yes, she brought hom the bling this year, but she also put on a commanding performance at the 2016 college finals rodeo. The first year, she was the second go-round champion, and tied for third and fourth in the third round. However, a dropped string in the first go took her out of the average race entirely. “I told myself last year, ‘I’ll be back. It’ll be a different outcome,’” Barry said.
With encouragement from her family and boyfriend, she did qualify once more. “He’s definitely picked me up at some of my worst times,” she said of Schaack. “I just worked at it every single day. If you really truly believe that it’s gonna happen, it’ll all work out in your favor in the end.”
Barry remembers speaking to her mom after winning the national championship: “I asked my mom, ‘Did this really just happen?’ It didn’t even seem real.”
Winning such a title would be impossible without the perfect equine partner. Barry’s horse, Pepper, has been sprinting her down the arena to tie goats for eight years now. However, when the mare first came to Tawny, “I was scared to death of her,” she said, “She was so, so high-strung.” The mare was purchased by Barry’s grandfather as a two-year old for $160. Pepper is now in her 20s, but her old age hasn’t slowed her down. “She’s calmed down a lot, but she still doesn’t act like she’s 22 years old,” Barry said. Pepper’s high energy was demonstrated just seconds before Barry’s short go run at this year’s college finals. The horse had a spastic moment of rearing and spinning, likely a result of the crowd, noise and short round jitters. “I think they’re just as anxious as we are,” Barry said, “but it all worked out.”
Competing in such a physically demanding event requires a heightened level of physical fitness, and Barry stays in shape by running. She also ties goats daily, and asserts that repetition is very important. “It’s always been one of my pet peeves to get out of shape when you’re trying to tie goats. It’s just like anything. If you play basketball and you’re out of shape, it’s not going to work.”
Barry dedicates her win to both her mother and father, Wade. She praises her dad’s stability, even in the midst of troubled times. “He’s pretty much who everyone in my family leans on. He sometimes gets put on the backburner,” Barry says. “I give huge credit to both my parents.”
Barry received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from ENMU this spring, and will attend the school for a third year in August to obtain her Master’s Degree in the same field, while continuing to college rodeo.
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many successes in the arena in 2020.