Defending National Champion UW Cowgirls Open Fall Rodeo Season
University of Wyoming rodeo Coach George Howard is not too concerned about any of the region teams this fall. It is his former Cowgirl, Nikki Steffes, who has him worried.
She's back again to compete in the arena, but not as a UW team member. That means that the greatest scorer in the Cowgirls' history will be a factor in determining how the UW women will do this season. They won the College National Finals Rodeo championship last June -- their second national title in three years. Steffes won the national all-around title during the Cowgirls' two championship runs.
Even though Steffes, who is still enrolled at UW this fall, has used up all her eligibility as a four-year member of the UW women's team, the Vale, S.D., student is returning this year as an "independent" competitor and will participate in all 10 Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) this fall and spring. As the regional student director she can compete in all rodeos. If she has another great season as in the past, she will be eligible to compete at the CNFR next June in Casper.
This means Steffes could potentially take away points from other UW cowgirls. Steffes won the CRMR all-around title all four year of eligibility, plus she was the top goat tyer and barrel racer three times as well. Steffes also was the national goat tying runner-up the past two seasons.
And to give regional teams added hope that they can unseat the three-time defending CRMR champion Cowgirls from their perch, UW's power trio of Steffes, TaNaye Carroll and Sarah Mulholland is no longer a part of the Cowgirl team.
"I've been in this position before," Howard says. "I'm pretty sure everyone will be after us this season. I'm not too worried about any of the teams. I'm more worried about Nikki. But, I feel we'll have a pretty strong team again."
The hope comes in South Plains College (Levelland, Texas) transfer Dana Weiser, a computer science junior from Wheatland. Last season, Weiser was the national all-around runner-up to Steffes and placed third in goat tying behind Mulholland and yes, Steffes, again.
The CRMR season begins this weekend at Chadron State College, with the first of five fall rodeos. The season begins two weeks earlier than normal because of weather concerns late in the season.
Weiser will be joined in the four-woman starting line up by last season's CNFR qualifier Kacy Hatten, an agricultural communications senior, also from Wheatland. Weiser will compete in all three women's events while Hatten is a breakaway roper. Lander's Heather Bregar, a kinesiology sophomore, spent about half the season last year as a starting member of the UW women's team. She also competes in all three women's events.
Howard says he is deciding among three talented freshmen for the fourth and final spot on the roster.
The UW men are coming off a second place CRMR finish and a tough showing at the CNFR where they finished in 40th place. However, this year's version has a veteran presence.
Back is Merritt Smith, an animal science junior from Gillette, who reached the top 10 in the CNFR's saddle bronc riding competition. He was the only UW Cowboy to reach the year-end rodeo's short go round.
Two other CNFR qualifiers also are on this week's six-man UW team. Bareback rider Bucky Dickson, kinesiology junior, Post Townsend, Wash., and Gillette College transfer Beau Miller, who competes in all men's timed events. Part-time starter from a year ago, Seth Bolerjack, a geology junior from Gillette, will compete in steer wrestling.
Howard says he will decide among three other Cowboys to fill the remaining two roster spots for the opening weekend.
"We've got a good balance of men in the roughstock and timed events, and with a little luck, we'll see how everything works for them," Howard says.
Bareback rider Bucky Dickson is among the leaders on the UW men's team.
Posted on Wednesday, September 09, 2009