UW Teams Close Fall Rodeo Season on a Roll
The spring rodeo season can’t come soon enough for Rodeo Coach George Howard and both his University of Wyoming teams.
Both clubs ended the fall season last weekend on a major roll and are in contention for Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) team titles.
The UW Cowgirls remained the region’s overall top team after placing third at last weekend’s final fall rodeo -- the Shawn Dubie Memorial Rodeo hosted by Laramie County Community College (LCCC) in Cheyenne.
The UW Cowboys moved up two places in the CRMR standings after snapping a three-week slump by winning the overall LCCC team title. The 690 team points the UW men scored in Cheyenne marked the team’s best effort of the season after UW won the first fall rodeo early last month.
Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) of Torrington was second with 663.3 points.
The Cowboys are in third place and are serious contenders for the CRMR championship when the spring season begins next March at Gillette College.
“The women are in a great position now,” Howard says about his front-running Cowgirls team, which came into the season as an afterthought. The UW women have sent just two team members and a lone competitor to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR), respectively, the last two seasons.
“Everyone was high on NJC (Northeastern Junior College of Sterling, Colo.) and Gillette College when the season started,” Howard says. “And now, they have to see our name up there all winter long.”
The UW women won three of the five rodeos to close the fall season with 1,745 total points, while NJC is second with 1,577.5 points. Gillette College is third at 1,515.
At the beginning of the fall season, Howard felt that he had the region’s top men’s team that could challenge for a CNFR championship, even calling his club a “dream team” because of depth in all six events.
But, after a fast start, the club struggled until breaking out at LCCC.
“Sometimes that happens and we have to be patient,” Howard says. “We have been firing on only half the cylinders.”
The UW men’s fortunes have been tied this season to how team ropers Tyler Schnaufer, a senior, and Clayton Van Aken, a junior, perform. If they do well, the overall team’s performance rises. The last three rodeos the pair have struggled, but last weekend they showed why they will be regional contenders next spring.
At LCCC, the partners won both rounds to win the overall average with a whopping 360 team points. They had an opening-round time of 6.4 seconds and improved that in the short go, recording a 5.9 for a two-run time of 12.3 seconds.
Schnaufer, the defending national champion from Pueblo, Colo., is the team’s header, while Van Aken, from Descanso, Calif., is the heeler. They currently sit third in the regional standings.
Wellfleet, Neb., junior Wyatt Clark added 90 team points when he and partner Colby Sturgeon, a Torrington sophomore, placed fourth in the team roping competition. Sturgeon’s points did not count in the Cowboys’ overall point standings; he was not selected among the six-man UW team prior to the rodeo. Clark is fourth in the regional team roping heeler standings.
Van Aken, who won the individual LCCC all-around title, and Clark, both scored additional team points, placing in the tie down roping average. Van Aken came back from a rough first round to split first place in the short go and wound up third in the average. Clark was fifth place in average points.
Clark currently sits fourth overall in the CRMR standings, and Van Aken is one spot back.
Justin Moldaschel of Stanton, Minn., rounded out the UW men’s scoring in Cheyenne with third-place points in bareback riding. The junior is third overall in the regional standings.
For the season, EWC leads the men’s team regional title race with 2,283.3 points, Gillette College is second with 2,250 points and the Cowboys are third at 1,825.
The Cowgirls had a decent weekend, placing third at the LCCC rodeo. NJC closed out the season winning the team title with 375 points to make it close among the region’s three best teams. Gillette College was second with 335 points and the UW women were just 15 points back.
Freshman sensation Chandler Markel continued her strong fall season, placing second in the barrel racing competition. She was second in both rounds of competition and is second in the overall individual standings to NJC’s Hayden Segelke, who won the all-around title at LCCC.
Former CRMR breakaway roping champion Kaycee Nelson won the event in Cheyenne after winning the short go round for the average’s best time. The Buffalo, S.D., senior, who rode on her backup horse in Cheyenne, now trails only teammate Lydia Coe, a Salinas, Calif., senior, by just 20 points for the regional lead.
The final team points for the Cowgirls came from Coe, who made the short go but did not place in the goat tying average.
The region’s best two teams advance to next summer’s CNFR in Casper, along with the top three in each individual event.
Tyler Schnaufer and Clayton Van Aken