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March 13, 2013 — The University of Wyoming men’s rodeo team was expected to challenge for a Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) title this year. What wasn’t expected -- the immediate rise of the Cowgirls’ team.
The UW women enter this weekend’s first spring rodeo at Gillette College as regional leaders, a position that has even caught UW Coach George Howard by complete surprise.
“They have been a most pleasant surprise for us,” Howard says. The team wasn’t considered a serious challenger with expected powerhouses Gillette College, Central Wyoming College and Northeastern Junior College (NJC) as odds-on-favorites to take the CRMR title.
But the UW women won three of five fall rodeos to pile up 1,745 team points, while NJC is second with 1,577. Gillette College is third at 1,515.
The Cowgirls may have been overlooked last fall because UW qualified only three team members for the year-end College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) the past two seasons, combined.
The powerful 1-2-3 punch of the Cowgirls’ breakaway ropers has led the team to first place going into the five-rodeo spring season.
Lydia Coe, a Salinas, Calif., senior, leads the UW ropers, sitting third overall nationally in total individual points. Second in the CRMR in breakaway roping is former regional champion Kaycee Nelson, a Buffalo, S.D., senior, who is fifth overall in the national standings. And third in the region is freshman Cassie Hamilton from Chehalis, Wash., who is among the top 10 ropers in the collegiate ranks.
The fourth member of the UW women’s team is another freshman, Chandler Markel of Scottsbluff, Neb., who is second in the region in barrel racing, just 10 points behind the leader.
The UW men dominated the first fall rodeo back in early September, but struggled after that until the semester’s final event. They rallied to third place overall heading into the spring season.
The surprising Eastern Wyoming College club leads the region with 2,283 points, while perennial contender Gillette College is next with 2,250. The Cowboys have scored 1,825 points.
“We’ve got some veteran experience in the lineup and we’re looking forward to getting to the CNFR,” Howard says. The top two teams in both the men’s and women’s regional divisions qualify for the finals this June at the Casper Events Center.
Expected in the lineup this weekend are the region’s third best team ropers -- header Tyler Schnaufer, the defending national champion from Pueblo, Colo., and heeler Clayton Van Aken from Descanso, Calif. The pair moved up quickly in the regional standings with two strong performances late in the fall.
Others in the lineup will be Justin Moldaschel of Stanton, Minn., who is third overall in the regional bareback riding standings; Wellfleet, Neb., junior Wyatt Clark is the region’s fourth best team roping heeler and also is a calf roper; Torrington sophomore Colby Sturgeon will compete in steer wrestling and also is a roper; and Thomas Smith of Eden rounds out the lineup, competing in the same events as Sturgeon.
UW’s home rodeo -- the Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo --- will take place May 3-5.