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May 6, 2013 — It might not have been the outcome the University of Wyoming rodeo teams wanted this season, but Coach George Howard is looking at the larger picture -- the College National Finals Rodeo.
The Cowboys and Cowgirls will send nearly full teams to the year’s final rodeo June 9-15 at the Casper Events Center. Six men and four women constitute full teams that can score points at each rodeo for a respective school. Only the top two teams from each region are allowed full teams at the CNFR.
However, in college rodeo, individuals placing among the top three in their respective events at the end of the regular season also are eligible for the finals. Despite faltering late in the year when it appeared that both UW teams were shoo-ins for CNFR bids, the Cowboys and Cowgirls are still in good shape, Howard says.
Four Cowboys have the opportunity to score major points for UW at the CNFR, while three women qualified. Last season, with just three qualifiers, the Cowboys placed third in the nation.
Ever the optimist, Howard says UW’s goal all year has been to contend for a national title.
“It’s not how many individuals you take, but the quality of the competitors,” he said after Sunday’s Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo short go. “We have as solid a group as anybody going to the CNFR and we will be respectable in the team standings.”
The Cowboys will have four representatives in four of the six men’s events at the CNFR, including defending national team roping champion Tyler Schnaufer. The Pueblo, Colo., senior, who was second in the regional all-around points total, will look to repeat in his specialty event with partner Clayton Van Aken, a Descanso, Calif., junior. They were third in the final Central Rocky Mountain Regional standings.
Schnaufer also placed third overall in the tie down roping competition and will compete in that event at the CNFR.
Additionally, the Pokes will send two roughstock competitors to college rodeo’s biggest event. Justin Moldaschel, a senior from Stanton, Minn., placed second in the regional bareback riding event. He will be joined by sophomore bull rider Hunter Hoover from Ulysses, Kan.
The women’s team produced UW’s only regional champion in Kaycee Nelson, who wrapped up the breakaway roping title before Sunday’s short go. The Buffalo, S.D., senior won the regional roping title as a sophomore.
Also qualifying for the CNFR are senior Lydia Coe from Salinas, Calif., who was the runner-up to Nelson in the breakaway roping competition; and freshman Chandler Markel from Scottsbluff, Neb., who placed third in barrel racing.
“I accomplished what I wanted this year, but I’m looking at the bigger picture,” Nelson said about her CNFR qualification. She had two solid runs at the CNFR two years ago, but failed for a short go bid when the rope skidded off the top of the calf’s head.
“It’s four solid runs at the CNFR,” Nelson says. “It’s my second chance to win a national title. I’ve been close and I know what it’s like to be there. I have to trust my horse, trust myself and let it play out.”
Her older sister, Kayla Nelson, was a two-time CNFR goat tying champion for the Cowgirls.
Both UW teams had a tough going in their own home rodeo over the weekend. The Cowboys were fifth on the men’s side, while the Cowgirls placed sixth overall. In the final regional standings, the UW men were third behind Eastern Wyoming College and Gillette College. Northeastern Junior College won the women’s title, while the Gillette women were second. Chadron State College overtook the UW women for third place in the final regional standings.
Nelson was fifth in Sunday’s breakaway roping competition and Laramie senior Jori Lorenzi was the runner-up, but her points did not count in the overall UW women’s team standings. Bellvue, Colo., senior Cayla Allen picked up the final team points in the opening barrel racing round, but did not return for the short go after suffering an injury.
Moldaschel was second in bareback riding for the top UW men’s finish. Wyatt Clark, a Wellfleet, Neb., junior, was second in tie down roping. Other team points came from Van Aken in tie down roping.
For a complete list of team points and individual winners from the Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo, go here.