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Latham Family to be Recognized as the 2020 Alumni Honored Family

Panhandle State Communications on 03/05/2021

The Panhandle State Association of Alumni and Friends is proud to announce that the 2020 Honored Family is the Latham family. Although the honoring ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19, we are pleased to continue our tradition. The Latham family will be recognized in April at the OPSU College Rodeo.

The Lathams have been a vital part of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University family for several years. Their story begins with three people that would set up the Latham family to carry on a legacy, Deke Latham, “Doc” Lynn Gardner, and Robert Etbauer. “Doc” recruited Deke to rodeo for him at Panhandle State where he met Robert, and the rest was history.

Deke went on to win the CNFR Bull Riding, CNFR Reserve Saddle Bronc, and CNFR All-Around titles in 1986. This was the same year that he qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo while traveling with Robert. Deke finished 5th in the world standings in the Saddle Bronc Riding. Unfortunately, that year of so many great accomplishments ended with a tragedy when Deke was killed in a car accident just a few miles from home in Wyoming.

The Latham family was left with a huge void that could not be filled, but Craig continued with his education at Eastern Wyoming College where he met Lori. “Doc” recruited Craig to come to Goodwell to rodeo for Panhandle State. Lori reminisced by saying, “It was July, a 100 plus degrees, and the wind was blowing just as hard, you know a typical day in the Panhandle Summer. I thought he was crazy to come here” Although her first thought was crazy, Lori followed the next year, and they have lived in Goodwell ever since.

Craig began traveling the rodeo trail with Robert, Billy, and Dan Etbauer which led to a family bond, unlike any others. The Lathams commented with a giggle, “Sue was trying to raise everybody at that point in time. We are all super thankful for her.” The family created so many great memories, although they weren’t always easy ones.

Craig and Lori married on Valentine’s Day in 1990 which happened to be a Wednesday in between rodeos, in proper rodeo fashion. Lori supported Craig in his decision to put college on hold to pursue rodeo full time, and he went on to qualify for 9 NFR trips accompanied by many titles and stories to tell.

Lori stayed at Panhandle State where she finished her degree, and they started their family. They had their first daughter Chaney in 1991, and Lori graduated in the fall of 1992. She began teaching at Goodwell Public School where she still teaches today. The Lathams welcomed their second daughter, Sadie, in 1997. They went on to build their home and raise the girls south of town with a few horses and cattle.

Latham’s story with Panhandle State doesn’t end there. As Craig’s rodeo career was closing due to several injuries, he went back and completed his degree in Agribusiness in 2000. It was during this time, that Dr. John Townsend approached him about being the Head Rodeo Coach at OPSU.

Craig spent more than a decade working to build and expand to have the best rodeo program he could for the kids that came to rodeo for him. The new practice arena and the Doug Wirtz building were completed. The stalls were expanded, the Top Hand Auction started, increases in scholarships, the McCloys were brought in to help with jackpots, and several National Team and Individual titles were won.

Both the girls, Chaney and Sadie, grew up in the practice arena and at college rodeos which made Panhandle State an easy choice. Chaney graduated in 2013, and Sadie received her degree in 2018. One recruit from Craig’s team, ended up his son-in-law, Tyrel Larsen from Canada. Tyrel graduated in 2011 from OPSU, and was later on crowned the CNFR Saddle Bronc Champion and qualified for the NFR in 2015. His time on Craig’s team led two brothers to attend and rodeo for Craig as well. Tyrel and Chaney married, and now have two sons, Charlie and Waylon.

In 2011, Craig was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer which forced him to cut his coaching career short in 2014. Fortunately, he was able to turn the reins over to ones that had been here since the beginning with Deke, Robert and Sue Etbauer.

The Latham family, with a grateful heart, stated, “We are all forever thankful for the students, the faculty and administration, for the friends and family that we have been blessed with through our affiliation with Oklahoma Panhandle State University. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.”