For the first time since 2006, a College National Finals Rodeo championship is headed to California.
Cal Poly freshman Taylor Santos-Karney won the tie-down roping title late Saturday to give the state its first individual CNFR title in eight years.
Santos-Karney won the short go-round with an 8.4-second run — his fastest of the week — to give him a four-run time of 37 seconds.
The victory helped Santos-Karney erase what had been a difficult week. The three-event cowboy, who came into the week leading the national all-around standings, failed to make the short go in steer wrestling and in team roping with his brother, junior Lane Santos-Karney.
“About halfway through the week, I realized that we weren’t drawing well in our other events,” Taylor said, “so I told Lane that I had to win the calf roping.”
Taylor did just that after Hill College’s Marty Yates, who was leading the average by 1.4 seconds entering the short go, struggled to a 14.4-second run.
“You never know what’s gonna happen in the short go,” Lane said, fighting back tears. “I told Taylor not to worry about beating Marty, because he’s one of the best calf ropers in the world right now. I just told him to make sure he was winning (the tie-down) when he rode out of the arena.
“I don’t know if he ever listens to me, but I guess he did (Saturday).”
While Taylor was undoubtedly happy with the victory, he was even more pleased to take a national championship back to his home state.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I’m not sure, but I think the last one from a California school to win it was our coach.”
Taylor was right. First-year Cal Poly coach Ben Londo won the all-around title twice for the school in 2005-06 and the bareback bronc riding title in 2005.
Londo, 26, said watching Taylor’s run Saturday was about as nerve-wracking as it got.
“I was never this nervous when I competed,” Londo said. “I’ve just never felt so amped up as I was when Taylor made that run.
“And if you look at the run he made, it just showed how clutch he is. He over-flanked his calf and didn’t have his best run, but he did what he had to do. It was awesome.”