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Short-handed UW Teams Head to CNFR

June 7, 2012

Stranger things have happened, and you never know what to expect at any rodeo. Veteran University of Wyoming rodeo Coach George Howard knows that all too well.

With the smallest contingent during his 14 years leading UW's rodeo program, Howard is optimistic heading into the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) June 10-16, at the Casper Events Center.

Only two Cowboys earned a bid to college rodeo's biggest year-end event, and just one Cowgirl will compete.

"You just never know what to expect," Howard says. "If they can come through like I think they can, they will be right there at the top."

Earning trips to the CNFR are Clayton Van Aken, a Descanso, Calif., sophomore, who will compete in tie down roping. Joining him on the Cowboys team is junior Tyler Schnaufer from Pueblo, Colo., competing in both tie down and team roping.

The lone Cowgirl is breakaway roper Lydia Coe, a junior from Salinas, Calif.

The UW men finished third this season in the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR), with only the top two teams gaining automatic bids to the CNFR. UW individual team members qualified for the national rodeo by finishing among the top in their respective events.

Howard hopes Van Aken and Schnaufer can repeat what the Cowboys accomplished during last season's CNFR. Another short-handed UW team banded together for a week of strong individual performances. The result: a third place team finish in the final standings.

Howard says it can be done again, with Schnaufer and Van Aken competing in a total of three events.

Schnaufer also will try for the all-around title. He and partner Shay Carroll from Northeastern Junior College (Sterling, Colo.) won the regional team roping title this season. They are making their second CNFR appearance in their specialty event.

Schnaufer split fourth and fifth place in the regional tie down roping competition, and also was the all-around runner-up.

Van Aken won the CRMR tie down roping title and appeared headed toward a second consecutive appearance in the team roping competition. Last season, he and his roping partner placed third in the CNFR and were the regional leaders last fall. But Van Aken's partner was ruled academically ineligible for the spring season. Van Aken and his new partner couldn't quite gel during the final five spring rodeos, leaving the duo out of contention.

Coe held off two other challengers down the stretch and wound up as the regional breakaway roping runner-up. The Cowgirls finished the spring season in fifth place.

The CNFR begins Sunday, June 10, with two performances at 1 and 4 p.m. of "Bulls, Broncs and Breakaway." Two rounds of slack will tkae place Monday and Tuesday at 7 a.m. Five nightly performances begin Tuesday, June 12, culminated by the championship round Saturday, June 16. All night performances begin at 7 p.m.

Coe is the only UW team member competing Sunday. Each contestant is guaranteed three rounds of competition, with the top 12 times and scores from the week advancing to Saturday's short go.

Coe also will compete in Monday's slack and Wednesday's night performance. Both Van Aken and Schnaufer will compete in the two tie down roping slack rounds. Van Aken also will compete in the Tuesday night performance and Schnaufer in Wednesday's night session.

Schnaufer's three rounds of team roping sessions are the two slack rounds and Thursday's night performance.

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