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UW Women Take Over CNFR Lead

June 18, 2009
Nikki Steffes

For the third consecutive year, it appears Nikki Steffes will head into Saturday night's College National Finals Rodeo short go-round as the overall leader.

This time, she hopes it's a different outcome than her back-to-back national runner-up finishes the two previous seasons. And the UW women are the overall national leaders as a team. The Cowgirls have 370 points with just one night of competition left to end the third go. Previous leader UNLV is now second with 330 points.

"It's an honor right now to be the leaders and I just hope we're still there at the end," UW Coach George Howard said.

Needing a 7.1-second time to reclaim the overall national goat tying lead, the UW senior nailed her best effort of the week on her third and final attempt Thursday night with a stunning 6.2-second run. Her three-run cumulative time of 20 seconds-flat automatically puts her into the short go in two events. She more than likely will advance in breakaway roping -- an event she completed the previous night.

Steffes, a molecular biology/medical microbiology senior from Vale, S.D., has nearly a full second lead over Central Wyoming College's Jessica Picchietti, who finished tying her three goats in 20.9 seconds. She was the only UW team member to compete Thursday evening.

The week's top 12 individual times and scores will compete for national honors Saturday night.

Steffes came into Thursday night's competition in the Casper Events Center knowing the goat she drew was one that had several no-times earlier in the week.

Riding her horse down the arena, Steffes quickly dismounted and made a bead on the tied goat that broke sharply to the UW Cowgirl's left. Without missing a step, Steffes was on top of the goat, throwing it down and, with precision, tied the legs with her usual fast hands.

A jubilant Steffes pumped her fist as the Events Center crowd roared its approval.

"I did not draw a very good goat tonight and I was just confident that he would be good. It was a good run, I thought, and it mostly worked out so that I could win the round," she said.

She is hoping teammate Sarah Mulholland also can move up the standings in the event. Mulholland will complete her third and final attempt Friday night. Earlier in the week, the Richland Center, Wis., senior supplanted Steffes as the top goat tyer after the second round.

"I'm just going for first place Saturday and I'm confident that it will finally work out this year," a smiling Steffes said.

If Mulholland qualifies Friday night, it will give the Cowgirls three chances to score points and a chance to win a national title. The team entered Thursday night's competition in third place, just 55 points behind first-place UNLV.

Steffes also had her final barrel racing run, completing the three turns in another personal best time of the week, 14.26 seconds. Her second-round time of 15.29 seconds will keep her out of the short go. She finished the week with a three-round time of 44.18 seconds.

"Coming in, I knew there probably wasn't a chance that I'd make the short go in barrel racing after my run in the second round," she said. "After that run, I just wanted to place deep in this round because I knew that I wouldn't be able to come back in the short go. I just wanted to do the best that I could tonight.

"It was a really good night for me all the way around," she added. "I couldn't ask for anything more."

The busy evening propelled Steffes to the all-around lead with 290 points through three women's events. She has 290 points -- 70 better than UNLV's Kassi Venturacci. Steffes won the CNFR all-around title in 2007 during the Cowgirls' national title run.


Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009

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