Three 2021 high school graduates with strong ties to rodeo will be honored by the J.O. Cravens Memorial Scholarship Committee. Lakin Cunningham of Kansas and Brad Moreno of Arizona will receive J.O. Cravens Memorial Scholarships and Autry Cowley of Oklahoma will receive the J.O. and Mary Cravens Legacy Scholarship.
The memorial scholarships were established in memory of lifelong rodeo cowboy, founding member and former president of the International Pro Rodeo Association (IPRA) and teacher J.O. Cravens following his death in 2018. They are awarded annually to high school graduates with strong ties to rodeo who continue their education at colleges, universities or trade schools. Judging criteria are 40% rodeo involvement; 25% scholarship, leadership and community activities; 20% financial need and 15% essay/personal narrative.
Lakin Cunningham of Louisburg, Kansas, will receive the $1,000 J.O. Cravens Memorial Scholarship for applicants attending a traditional college. Cunningham, who has experience in all aspects of rodeo as a contestant, committee member, specialty act, personnel, social media manager and rodeo queen, has competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in four events and was the only state queen with a state all-around championship in 2019. Her competition accomplishments include qualifying for the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo (NLBFR) six years, qualifying for the American Royal Youth Rodeo, the Junior NFR and the Junior American; and earning a reserve championship in goat tying at the Vegas Tuffest Junior World Championship in 2019.
Cunningham served as a student officer both nationally and statewide in the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) and the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA); produced a qualifying barrel race for the Vegas Tuffest Junior World Championship; served as an American Royal Youth Agvocate, promoting the event and agriculture. She has also devoted hundreds of hours to fundraising for pediatric cancer in honor of her brother Lane, including raising more than $10,000 as a team leader for Hailey Kinsel’s We Can Help campaign. Her non-rodeo activities include FFA, track, band, concert choir, forensics and debate. She will attend Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, where she will be part of the rodeo team and major in exercise science with a minor in business. Cunningham plans to pursue a post-graduate degree as a chiropractor.
Brad Moreno of Casa Grande and Kayenta, Arizona, will receive the $750 J.O. Cravens Memorial Scholarship for applicants attending a two-year college or trade school and majoring in a trade or technical field. Moreno grew up as one of three sons of a single mom in a remote area of the northern Navajo Nation, just 25 miles south of Monument Valley.
As a junior he transferred to a larger high school some 350 miles away in Case Grande where he lived with his aunt and uncle. Brad has qualified for the NHSFR three consecutive years in bull riding, once in team roping and once in tie-down roping and finished in the top 10 in bull riding in 2019. He is a two-time state high school champion in bull riding and a state reserve champion in team roping. His junior high titles include all-around, bull riding and ribbon roping, along with reserve championships in steer bareback and steer saddle bronc riding. He also qualified for the Indian National Finals Rodeo in junior breakaway and junior bull riding.
Moreno served as treasurer and bull riding director in the Arizona High School and Junior High Rodeo Association. He has been a member of both the Cinch Team and the Heel-O-Matic Young Guns Team. Moreno also won two junior high state championships in wrestling and was active in FFA all four years of high school. He will attend Central Arizona College where he will be part of the rodeo team while earning an associate degree of applied science in structural welding.
Autry Cowley of Vinita, Oklahoma, will receive the $500 J.O. & Mary Cravens Legacy Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to a student who applies for the memorial scholarship and meets the legacy scholarship outlines of rodeo leadership, competition and lifestyle. The pair were both founding members of the IPRA, longtime board members of the association and qualifiers for the inaugural International Finals Rodeo. After lengthy careers in rodeo competition, they continued their rodeo involvement: J.O. as a judge and Mary as a secretary and timer. They raised two daughters while rodeoing across the country.
Cowley competes in saddle bronc riding and team roping. As a bronc rider he has qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo, the Junior NFR, the Junior IFR (winning the senior saddle bronc championship in 2017 and the super senior saddle bronc reserve champion in 2018 and 2019), the Oklahoma High School Finals Rodeo (three times) and the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo. He has served as an NHSRA national boys director and Team Oklahoma voting delegate and OHSRA vice president. In FFA he won the state science fair and finished fourth nationally with a project that explored the friction of rosin on a bull rope. His parents made a living for many years as rodeo specialty performers: his father Alan was a rodeo clown, bullfighter and comedy act performer and his mom Chandy performed a high-schooled horse act and a trained buffalo act that was featured at the IFR. Cowley will attend Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College where he will be part of the rodeo team and plans to earn degrees in welding and farm and ranch management.