By Lido Vizzutti, 5-07-12
||Caption: Kalispell’s Lexy Rianda competes in a goat tying competition recently. - Photo courtesy of Lisa Rianda
Being one of the best goat-tying cowgirls in the nation, Lexy Rianda has gotten used to having her hands full.
The Kalispell native wrapped up her final exam at Montana State University last Friday, graduated Saturday in Bozeman, and saddled up Sunday in Missoula and became the year-end champion at the Big Sky Region Finals Rodeo.
“It’s pretty overwhelming right now,” she said on Friday. “It just feels like the last four years have flown by. I can’t believe it’s over.”
Rianda, a 2008 Flathead High graduate, is finishing up an impressive collegiate rodeo career as one of the best cowgirls in the nation. After winning state championships on the Flathead Valley High School Rodeo Team, Rianda continued her success on one of the best college teams in the U.S. As a sophomore she placed sixth at the College National Finals Rodeo in goat tying. As a junior she won the Big Sky Region title, placed eighth at nationals and helped MSU win its first women’s national championship since 1986. This year she hasn’t missed a beat, winning her second straight region title and qualifying for nationals for the third year in a row.
“She’s the senior leader. She’s competed at an extremely high level the last few years. People look up to her,” MSU rodeo team head coach Mike True said. “She’s the gold standard in goat tying in this part of the world.”
Both the MSU men’s and women’s rodeo teams have qualified for nationals the last seven years, a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association record. The previous record was four.
Rianda hasn’t taken the last four years for granted. After all, her college career almost ended right after it began. She was the region’s leader in goat tying and third-ranked cowgirl in the nation when she fractured two bones in her lower leg during competition.
“At the moment I thought this was the end,” she said. “I just feel so lucky to have been able to accomplish everything I have. I feel so fortunate, especially after breaking my leg freshman year. It made me reevaluate my values and I give more credit to God than anything. I’m really thankful.”
Rianda recovered faster than expected and got back in the saddle three weeks later. She said she was a little shaky at first. But, as her coach describes it, pretty soon she was back flying through arenas and roping goats better than most.
“She’s a fierce competitor,” her coach said. “She’s very athletic and quick on her feet and has very quick hands. Nobody takes her horse down the arena and unsaddles going 40 miles per hour better than she does.”
Rianda comes from a rodeo family. She began when she was 6. In college, besides competing, she graduated with an equine science degree. Her younger sister, Jondie, is a senior at Glacier and will compete on the MSU rodeo team next year. Her father was the second-ranked steer wrestler in the nation in college while her mother won the California high school state title in goat tying.
Rianda isn’t sure when or where she’ll be in the saddle again after college. She’ll make her final go-rounds at the CNFR June 10-16 in Casper, Wyo. The MSU women’s team is just as strong as last year’s national champion group, and Rianda enters the competition ranked as one of the best.
But success or not, she’s in the saddle. That’s all that really matters.
“It would be pretty special to do it again, but if not, I’ve accomplished a lot the last four years,” Rianda said. “I’m more thankful to compete now more than anything.”
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