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Mulholland Will Challenge UW Teammate Steffes for CNFR Goat Tying Title; Women Remain First

June 19, 2009
Sarah Mulholland

The University of Wyoming women's team solidified its chances for a College National Finals Rodeo championship when Sarah Mulholland put herself in contention to win an individual goat tying title.

And she'll challenge Cowgirl teammate Nikki Steffes for that honor.

With those two coming in ranked first and second for Saturday night's short go in the Casper Events Center, the UW women have the opportunity to win the CNFR championship for the second time in three years.

The Cowgirls opened up a triple-digit lead on runner-up UNLV with 415 total points. The Lady Rebels have 300.

Mulholland, a Richland Center, Wis., senior had Friday night's best time in goat tying with her top mark of the week at 6.6 seconds. Her three-round time of 20.3 is just three-tenths of a second behind Steffes, who heads into the short go round as the national leader. Central Wyoming College's Jessica Picchietti is third at 20.9.

Mulholland's effort helped the Cowgirls maintain their overall national lead for the second consecutive night. She and Steffes will go head-to-head in the evening's sixth event of the evening.

Steffes has been the national runner-up the past two seasons, and both previous times she's come into the short go as the leader. And both times she was second by a tenth of a second; two years ago she was the runner-up to UW teammate Kayla Nelson.

If the Cowgirls are to win the national title, they will have three chances to score points, making them one of the few teams with that many opportunities. Steffes will enter Saturday's short go sixth in the breakaway roping average despite one double-digit time earlier in the week. She's also in line to win the national all-around title, the same honor she won in 2007. She currently is the all-around leader.

UW Coach George Howard called Mulholland's effort "monumental" for the team's overall performance.

"She's just three-tenths of a second behind Nikki. Sarah will push Nikki tomorrow night and Nikki will push Sara as well," Howard said. "It will make it a real fast competition."

But it was Mulholland's night, whose goat tying times got lower each round. She admitted that it was her most important run ever.

"I just hope I keep this up one more night. Hopefully I will be in the perfect position to go in and be able to win it. It really doesn't matter where I'm at tonight, but it matters where I'm at Saturday night, I think I'm in a good position to be in the running," an exhausted Mulholland said. "I knew this was a pretty big run for me because I'm almost done tying goats for my career. So this was probably the most important run tonight, but tomorrow night will be just as big. This one had a lot more meaning to it."

Mulholland says she knows she has a chance to win an individual title, but she's also looking at bigger things -- being a part of a national-winning team. And just like last season, the UW Cowgirls enter the short go as the overall national leader. But a year ago the UW women faltered in the finals and had to settle for fourth place.

"Our chances look good. We need more go round points and we have to do well in the short round. We need to stay focused and keep putting consistent rounds together," Mulholland said. "I think it's good to be number one right now, but I want to be number one when it's all said and done. Hopefully tomorrow night I'm saying the same thing."

Only one UW Cowboy qualified for Saturday's championship round.

UW saddle bronc rider Merritt Smith made the short go with a three-ride point total of 206 points. The Gillette sophomore tied for ninth in the average. He had to wait two days before knowing his fate. He finished his three rides Wednesday.

The remaining UW team members all had disappointing final runs Friday evening.

Troy Brandemuehl, Gordon, Neb., senior had his tough week come to an end with a no time in steer wrestling. The steer dipped its head just as Brandemuehl went for the horns, sending the UW Cowboy over the top.

UW's two roping teams both missed their steers and had no times.

Chad Nelson, a Buffalo, S.D., senior and partner Beau Miller of Gillette College had a chance for a short go bid having roped a pair earlier in the week. But for the first time this week, Nelson missed the steer's horns.

Tyler Viles, a Cody senior, also missed the head when he and partner Jared Bilby of Eastern Wyoming College suffered a no time.

Wheatland junior Kacy Hatten's first CNFR appearance came to an end with her final breakaway roping event. And it ended the way it began -- with a miss. In fact, Hatten had three consecutive no times.

Before Friday night's rodeo, the only UW men's team to win the national championship was honored. The 1961 contingent of Leon Cook, Jerry Kaufman, Jim Moore, Frank Shepperson, Al Smith and Fred Wilson were all on hand for recognition honors. They won the national title that season in San Francisco's old Cow Palace.

What made this team unique is that every member of that championship team were all Wyoming natives. They will be inducted into UW's Hall of Fame this fall.

Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009

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