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UW Rodeo Teams Back in Action for Spring Season

March 12, 2014

University of Wyoming rodeo Coach George Howard had one of those semesters where things just didn’t seem to go right.

After a hot start during the fall portion of the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR), the Cowboys faded in the middle of the season, but recovered late to at least stay in the running for a College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) bid.

On the other hand, Howard’s Cowgirls team never quite recovered from a slow start and now is looking up from near the bottom of the women’s standings.

“The men aren’t out of it just yet,” Howard says as his club prepares for the spring season at this weekend’s Gillette College rodeo.  “I hope we can get it all together this spring and that it’s better than last fall where we were spread out and sporadic.”

The Cowboys enter the five-rodeo spring season in fifth place with 1,205 points. The UW men need to surpass at least two other CRMR teams over the next two months to gain one of the two CNFR automatic team bids. Gillette College leads the pack with 2,590 points, while Casper College is second with 2,448.33 points.

If the Pokes make any type of movement in the standings, they will rely on a veteran group, mainly those in the timed events. The Cowboys have talent on the roster heading into the spring season.

Inserted in the six-man lineup for the first rodeo will be team roping partners, the Merritt brothers of Eaton, Colo. Kade, the header, and Reed, the heeler, are sitting second in the overall team roping regional standings.

Senior Clayton Van Aken, from Descanso, Calif., enters the weekend as the second-place tie-down roper. He’s also the header for Kyon Kreutzer, Northeastern Junior College, in the team roping competition. They are sixth in the CRMR standings.

Also in the lineup this weekend will be Wyatt Clark, Wellfleet, Neb., who is second in bareback riding. He also will compete in saddle bronc riding and the two roping events. Brit Ellerman, Fort Lupton Colo., and partner Trey Yates of Eastern Wyoming College are fourth in the team roping competition. Senior Thomas Smith, Eden, will do double duty, competing in tie down roping and steer wrestling.

“They’ve looked good since we started practicing in February,” Howard says. “Hopefully, we can put it all together this spring and get some good draws.”

As for the women’s side of the competition, the Cowgirls are still a work in progress. Nothing has gone right as Howard still looks for a winning combination. It didn’t help that reliable barrel racer Chandler Markel of Scottsbluff, Neb., opted to leave UW after the fall semester to pursue another career.

That leaves the Cowgirls with an untested lineup that has yet to score consistently. The Cowgirls enter the spring season near the bottom of the women’s regional standings with only 160 team points. Twice last fall they failed to score a single point in a competition.

Gillette College also leads the women’s division with 1,590 points, while Chadron State College has 1,540.

On the four-member UW club this weekend will be freshman Amelia Anderson, Forsyth, Mont., competing in barrel racing, goat tying and breakaway roping. Cassie Hamilton, a junior from Chehalis, Wash., will be in the breakaway and team roping events. Sophomore Devin Nichols of Kinnear will be in the same events as Hamilton. And competing for the first time on the four-member women’s team will be senior barrel racer Shelby Williams of Parker, Colo.

“They’re all capable; it’s a rebuilding year for us, but we have five rodeos left. You never know what’s going to happen,” Howard says.

UW hosts its annual Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo May 2-4.

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