EWC’s Rayhill set to return to the CNFR
TORRINGTON – The 2023 edition of the College National Finals Rodeo will be the fourth trip to the college rodeo’s season finale for Eastern Wyoming College’s Karissa Rayhill. It would be her fifth trip had it not been for COVID in 2020.
Rayhill is treating this year’s to Casper a little bit differently.
“I’ve made it in barrels and goat tying three times,” she said. “I’ve always prepared super hard, and knew I deserved to be there, but I treated it like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
This year though, she’s treating it like any other rodeo.
“I’m not putting myself in that physical bind. I’m not freaking out. I’ve had a lot of other life events happening,” Rayhill explained. “I’m just relaxing, knowing that I know how to do it and what I’m doing. I’m just going out there and give it my best shot like I do the other rodeos.”
This year was borderline whether or not she was going to make it, and Rayhill feels blessed to have made it again.
She finished second in the Central Rocky Mountain Region Women’s All-Around standings with 1,118 points. In her individual events, she placed seventh in barrel racing and fourth in goat tying.
“It was determined on whether or not I performed well,” Rayhill said. “A lot of that was going back to preparation, and preparation was my best key in succeeding in making this year. That’s a lot to be thankful for.”
Those will be the two events she will compete in at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper on June 11-17.
Preparation for her is all about muscle memory and repetition, along with staying in shape for both herself and her horses, watching video on areas where she might need to improve and making sure she and her horses eat right.
“Right now, I’m staying in shape and trying to not put my body in a bind,” Rayhill said.
She will have three chances to make it to the championship round on Saturday, June 17. She will compete in the slacks on Monday and Tuesday.
“Then they have their performances, so I’ll draw up in a performance for barrels and a performance in goats,” Rayhill said. “Based on those three runs, it will determine whether or not I’m in the top 12 to make it to the short-go.”
Rayhill hopes her past experiences will help her in this one last run at the CNFR.
“I feel like I have an advantage knowing how it works, when they are tying the goats before the rodeo, when you can get in the arena, where to go, I know the town better, I know where to eat heathy stuff and get stuff for the horses,” Rayhill said. “Just being familiarized with that and being comfortable in that environment is a big advantage to me.”
Rayhill will be the lone representative of the Lancer rodeo team in Casper.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “I’ve done with a team before as well. That was a little more special. You get super wrapped up in it and proud of it when you are a part of a team. As an individual, you feel honored, but you feel pressure as well. I’m happy to represent the school and represent my hard work.”
Rayhill was recently married, and despite this being her final run in the college rodeo ranks, rodeo will always be a part of her life.
“I would like to get involved in some professional rodeos,” she said. “We are trying to figure out where we want to go and where we want to be and what we want to do together. Rodeo will always be a part of my life, my kids life. It’s my passion, and it’s what I’m good at. I hope opportunities come along so that I can keep teaching people and helping people and doing it myself.”
Rayhill is hopeful leave EWC in July with four degrees. Three are tied together with farm and ranch business management, business administration and general agriculture science degrees. In July, she hopes to add a fourth to the list in hair tech.
“I wanted to do something that will help me grow as a person and get me out of my comfort zone. If you aren’t out of your comfort zone, you aren’t growing and experiencing new things,” Rayhill said. “This year might be my proudest years I’ve had at EWC. I’ve met some awesome people who don’t have the same backgrounds and interests as I do. It’s eye-opening.”
It’s a lesson Rayhill has learned this year, and she’s thankful for that opportunity.
“God has my back, and He’s watched over me this long. I know He’ll continue to do that,” Rayhill said.