Murphy-Sylvester looks to change luck in Reno |

Murphy-Sylvester looks to change luck in Reno


Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” If you’ve followed rodeo at all in Northern Nevada in the last 10 years, Marvel Murphy-Selvester needs no introduction.

Murphy-Selvester was a three-time Nevada all-around champion at Fallon High School and then went on to Texas Tech where she was a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association barrel racing champion in 2002 when she was timed in 14.26 seconds.

She is one of four Northern Nevada women involved in barrel racing at this week’s 89th annual Reno Rodeo, joining Washoe Valley’s Lita Scott, Reno’s Molly Wells and Sparks’ Renee Ryckebosch.

Like most horsewomen, Murphy-Selvester grew up on a ranch and developed an interest in horses in particular and rodeo in general at an early age.

“I rode a horse before I could walk,” Murphy-Selvester said after her first barrel run (17.90) aboard Cougar on Friday. “I was always around the horses. My dad trained cutting horses and my godfather was heavy into quarterhorses. My husband trains racehorses. We have 21 head on our property, and I’m riding 11 different horses a day.

“I never imagined myself doing anything else. I loved the life on a ranch.”

And she loves coming to the Reno Rodeo. Murphy-Selvester, who now lives in Red Bluff, Calif., is thrilled to ride in front of family and friends.

“I love coming here,” she said. “It gives me a chance to see my family. I got my permit when I was 14. I’ve had some bad luck in Reno, though.”

Her horse, Cougar, got a bit spooked, moved backward and suffered a cut on his leg last year. Murphy-Selvester has been riding Cougar for four years.

She admitted that there is some added pressure to perform in front of locals fans.

“He (Cougar) usually does better under pressure,” Murphy-Selvester said. “I thought we would do well this morning. I wasn’t happy with the time. I don’t like slack as much. Half the time they don’t even announce. I think at night you run 20 times harder. There is more action.”

Murphy-Selvester will run again Thursday night as will Washoe Valley’s Lita Scott.

The former Fallon star plans on competing in Salinas next month and is also looking at more indoor rodeos because she said that Cougar handles those better.

Murphy-Selvester is ranked in the top 20 in the California. She has competed in six or seven events this season and would love to do more. Rising fuel prices have made it tough to be on the road as much as she would like.

“I would love the opportunity,” said Murphy-Selvester, who drives a Ford 350 that gets less than 10 miles per gallon. “If a gas company decided to sponsor me, I could do it.”

She admits that part-timers like herself have trouble competing against tour regulars.

“I run it to win,” she said. “When I first started competing I thought how much fun it was. After eight or nine years … I don’t run just to run. We’re at a big disadvantage. The rich and elite spend up to $100,000 on tour. The disadvantage stems from a lack of money and or sponsorship. I can’t afford that. If I did travel more, I’d have to have somebody work with my horses while I was gone, and that’s expensive.”

– Contact Darrell Moody at or (775) 881-1281


When: Today at 7 a.m. Tonight at 7 p.m.

Where: Reno Livestock Events Center

Tickets: The morning session is free of charge and tickets for the evening session range from $12 to $22

Locals in action: Gardnerville’s Jim Usher competes in a slack round of steer wrestling at 7 a.m. Fallon’s Joe Sterling Lambert also competes in steer wrestling slack at 7 a.m. Squaw Valley’s Blaine Ketscher is in team roping at 7 p.m.

Today’s special events: Wrangler World’s Greatest Roper, 1 p.m. indoor arena.

Locals on Monday: Usher will compete in his second round of slack at 7 a.m. Topaz’s Matt Huissman and Carson’s Garrett Smith will compete in team roping at 7 p.m.