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UW Rodeo Teams Open Spring Season This Weekend

March 16, 2011

As the University of Wyoming prepares to open its spring rodeo season, Coach George Howard is looking for consistency.

It'll take consistently strong performances for the Cowboys to stay in a tightly-contested race for one of the Central Rocky Mountain Region's (CRMR) two automatic bids to the College National Finals Rodeo.

The Cowgirls, meanwhile, must find consistency to establish confidence in a building-block season.

"We've had a real strong winter of preparation, so I'm excited to see what happens when they get in the arena," Howard says.

The UW teams begin the five-event spring schedule this weekend at Gillette College. The spring tour also includes stops at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) in Torrington, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Casper College before concluding at the UW-hosted Laramie River Rendezvous.

The Cowboys are third in the regional standings, 372 points behind second-place Casper College but just 18 points ahead of fourth-place Central Wyoming College (CWC) of Riverton. Gillette College (GC) sits atop the men's standings by 95 points over the Thunderbirds.

"We're about 400 points out of it and that's really doable if everything goes right for us," says Howard.

In the CRMR's five fall rodeos, team roping partners Kade Merritt of Eaton, Colo., and Clayton Van Aken of Descanso, Calif., paced the Cowboys. They lead the regional standings and rank among the top 10 nationally in heading and heeling, respectively.

"Those two are really something else," Howard says.

The UW men will also look for strong performances this spring from steer wrestler Thomas Smith (Eden) and saddle bronc rider Merritt Smith (Gillette), both of whom rank among the top five in their respective events.

Fremont County roping partners Chance Nicholls of Riverton and Dahl Nicholls of Kinnear also enjoyed success in the fall. They are fifth in the CRMR team roping standings.

While the Cowboys are in contention for a trip to June's national finals at the Casper Events Center, the Cowgirls are in fifth place. UW finished the fall season some 645 points out of second place. CWC tops the standings, followed by GC, Chadron (Neb.) State College and EWC.

"Those teams got off to good starts and they all have a good contingent," Howard says. "I've got some girls who are still learning."

During the fall, Heather Bregar (Lander) and Ilene Choal (Laramie) were the Cowgirls' top performers. Bregar is fifth in goal tying; Choal sixth in barrel racing. UW will also rely on Dana Weiser (Wheatland) and Josie Davison (Miles City, Mont.) for points in the spring.

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