UW Women's Perfect Season Comes to an End at Home Rodeo
For a team used to winning all the time this season, the University of Wyoming women's rodeo club members were already looking ahead to the next rodeo when they didn't take the team title Sunday in their own backyard.
The Cowgirls' perfect season came to an end in the Central Rocky Mountain Region's (CRMR) final rodeo of the fall/spring season at the indoor Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena.
The Cowgirls had an off weekend during the 60th Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo, scoring a season-low 310 points to finish third in the standings to Central Wyoming College (CWC) which won with 330 points, and Sheridan College, which totaled 315 points.
It marked only the second time in two years -- spanning 20 rodeos -- that the Cowgirls did not finish first in a regional competition. With a 900-point lead going into the final weekend, the UW women were on track to claim the overall national points lead, but official scores had not yet been tabulated as of Monday morning.
"Hey, I have no complaints whatsoever," UW Coach George Howard said after watching his team place third in its home rodeo. "These ladies have done a phenomenal job and I expect them to go and carry it on to the college national finals."
Both the UW Cowgirls and Cowboys earned automatic bids to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) June 14-20 at the Casper Events Center. The Cowgirls have a three-year streak of finishing in the top five, winning the national title in 2007. After slipping to fourth overall last year, the three seniors on the squad vowed to make it a special season, with one goal in mind: to win another national title.
"Individually, I think we will do awesome because we have a really strong team. If we can stay focused and make good runs, we are going to succeed at the college finals," said Sarah Mulholland, a nursing senior from Richland Center, Wis., who placed fifth in Sunday's barrel racing average and won the overall regional breakaway roping title. "We're seniors and we should do well. We've practiced hard and we're focused. We're mentally tough and we've been pretty consistent all season."
She was referring to her veteran teammates Nikki Steffes and TaNaye Carroll.
All season, the seniors have dominated their respective events, but for the first time last weekend they were mere mortals. Only Steffes and Mulholland reached the short go Sunday afternoon.
Steffes, a microbiology/medical microbiology senior from Vale, S.D., was "not very" good," she said throughout the entire weekend. But her average performance still propelled her to a 10th consecutive all-around individual title this season when she placed in two events. She won in barrel racing and finished third in goat tying.
For her career, Steffes, the school's all-time leading scorer, now has won the regional all-around title and also the barrel racing event all four seasons of competition. By winning the goat tying long go Saturday, Steffes replaced Carroll as the regional champion.
Carroll, who didn't make the short go in the event, placed second overall. Steffes has won the goat tying event three times, finishing second to Carroll who was competing for Northeastern Junior College at that time.
"I've had the best four years at the University of Wyoming and I've learned a lot. I definitely have to thank my teammates for making me so competitive and always being right there to support me" Steffes said after completing the third of her final events on the day. "I think we've all helped each other, especially Sarah and TaNaye and all my teammates in the past. I have to thank George, too, for always being there if I ever needed anything. He's always made sure we had good practices. It's been a lot of fun, that's for sure."
As she waited to collect her regional hardware for winning the regional goat tying and barrel racing events, Steffes had to stop and think about how many saddles she's been awarded for being named an all-around champion. Stored in the family's basement are nearly 50 saddles, all won since she started competitive rodeo at age five. She hopes the bigger prize comes next month at the CNFR -- that's been the goal ever since the team didn't repeat as national champions a year ago.
"Our goal at the finals is to be first in every single round of every single event," Steffes said. "It's probably not possible, but I think we're just going for it and we will be ready for it. We'll be so prepared, I know that."
Besides the three seniors, Kacy Hatten, an agricultural communications junior from Wheatland, will compete at the CNFR in breakaway roping. Steffes is entered in all three women's events; Mulholland in goat tying and breakaway roping; and Carroll will compete in goat tying.
The UW men also will take a full team to the CNFR Selected are Troy Brandemuehl, a wildlife biology senior from Gordon, Neb., in steer wrestling; Bucky Dickson, a kinesiology sophomore from Sequim, Wash., in bareback riding; Merritt Smith, an animal science sophomore from Gillette, in saddle bronc riding; Jason Hubbard, an agriculture senior from Wheatland, in tie down roping; and a pair of team ropers, Chad Nelson, an agricultural business senior from Buffalo, S.D., and Tyler Viles, a finance senior from Cody.
"We have good balance and have someone going to the college finals in every event except bull riding," he said. "We have some good solid players and they'll take a run at the national title. That's what we're going there for and that's been our goal all year long -- to win the nation."
The Cowboys captured a pair of events during Sunday's short go to place third overall with 445 points to maintain second place in the region. CWC won the team title with 610 points and Casper College was second with 450.
Brandemuehl came from the fourth position to win the short go to propel himself atop the steer wrestling average. His late-season push qualified him for his first CNFR.
"I had a really good fall, but had a rough start in the spring. I was putting too much pressure on myself and not having a lot of fun. I just said, ‘What the heck, let's just go get them and throw one down,'" he said after claiming the bulldogging belt buckle. "The last three to four weekends, I just relaxed and went out and did what I know how to do. I tried for four years to make it to the national finals and I finally made it."
Nelson and partner Beau Miller of Gillette College claimed the team roping title.
The Cowboys also got early round scoring from roughstock competitors
Smith and Dickson, but were both thrown before the eight-second buzzer
in the short go of saddle bronc and bareback riding, respectively.
Douglas Owens, an architectural engineering senior from Gray, Tenn., was one of only two bull riders to complete two successful rides. He won both rounds to win the average, but his points did not count in the team's overall production. Owens was not one of the designated team members.
The Cowboys had two individuals win regional titles: Smith in saddle bronc riding and Viles in team roping.
Listed are the team scores and winners in the average:
Women's team scores -- Central Wyoming College (CWC) 330; Sheridan College (SC) 315; University of Wyoming (UW) 310; Colorado State University (CSU) 240; Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) and Casper College (CC 135; Lamar Community College (LCC) 130 Gillette College (GC) 110; Laramie County Community College (LCCC) 5.
Men's team scores -- CWC 610; CC 450; UW 445; GC 345; Northeastern Junior College (NJC) 280; EWC 200; LCCC 175; CSU 105; Chadron State College (CSC) 85; Otero College (OC) 30.
Barrel racing -- Nikki Steffes, UW, 30.37; Jordan Hodges, UW, 30.43; Amanda Welsh, GC, 30.62; Alyson Rehm, CSU, 30.97; Sarah Mulholland, UW, 31.10; Becky Grimm, CSC, 31.14.
Breakaway roping -- Taylor Miniat, CSU, 4.7; Staci Miller, CC, 5.3; Lacey Schuelke, SC, 5.9; Jessica Picchietti, CWC, 6.1; Kendra Hemphill, LCC, 6.2; Bailee Novotny, SC, 6.7.
Goat tying -- Kaylee Moyer, EWC, 14.8; Lacey Schuelke, SC, 14.9; Nikki Steffes, UW, 15.2; Jamie Kirk, CC, 15.4; Lacey Roberts, CSC, 15.5; Jessica Picchietti, CWC, 15.9
Saddle bronc riding -- Travis Darling, CC, 151; J.W. Moore, CC, 133; Andrew Harris, NJC, 109. Only three on two rides.
Bareback riding -- Ty Breuer, CWC, 157; Jed Wilson, CC, 144; Bryan Jones, CWC, 143; Troy Bechen, CC, 137; Whitten Hoover, CSC, and Billy Kolz, LCC, both 134.
Bull riding -- Douglas Owens, UW, 149; Justin Thomas, LCCC, 141. Only two on two rides.
Steer wrestling -- Troy Brandemuehl, UW, 12; Logan McDonald, 13.1; 3, Lane Stirling, GC, 14.4; Troy Teague, CC, 17.3; Miles Spickemier, LCCC, 24.3; Seth Bolerjack, UW, 33.9.
Tie down roping -- Mitch McAdow, NJC, 18.5; Riley Warren, CWC, 20.7; Joey Dickens, CSU, 21.9; Will Smith, UW, 22.6; Bridger Chytka, CSC, 24; Dustin Smith, CC, 25.3.
Team roping -- Chad Nelson, UW/Beau Miller, GC, 16.5; Jessica Picchietti/Riley Warren, CWC, 18.3; Cody Waldrip/Hadley Berger, UW, 18.5; Will Smith, UW/Cody McClusky, NJC, 25.9; Tyler Viles/Jared Bilby, EWC, 27; Kaite Felix/Jake Hamilton, CC, 27.4.
Top Bulldogger University of Wyoming Cowboy Troy Brandemuehl, a wildlife biology senior from Gordon, Neb., get a good grip on the horns during Sunday's steer wrestling event at the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena.
Posted on Monday, May 04, 2009