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Webb, Anderson Lead Resurgent UW Women’s Rodeo Team

June 16, 2017
head portraits of Amelia Anderson and Kailee Webb

Kailee Webb and Amelia Anderson took different paths to the University of Wyoming, but both knew they wanted to rodeo for the Cowgirls.

And UW Coach George Howard couldn’t be happier with the pair. It seems that his women’s program turned the corner once Anderson and Webb came on board.

For a solid two decades, the Cowgirls were a College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) fixture, always finishing among the top 10 programs in the nation. The UW women won three national titles in the 1990s and added the program’s fourth in 2009.

And then the unthinkable happened. The wins stopped coming for the Cowgirls. No Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) championships, and, more important, UW stopped qualifying full teams for the year-end CNFR. UW went on a five-year stretch, after its final national women’s national championship, without qualifying a team.

Sure, some women qualified as individuals, but not part of a full four-member team. Then, experience started to pay off for the Cowgirls.

Both Anderson and Webb say they were not recruited to UW coming out of high school. Anderson is from Forsyth, Mont., and Webb is from Isabel, S.D.

“I had a couple of different offers, but I didn’t really like the campuses or where they were at. And I had some offers from community colleges but didn’t want to go to any of them,” Anderson says on a day off from the CNFR in Casper. “I had some friends tell me that I should check out UW. I loved the campus; the town was small enough for a university town, and I decided right away I was going to go there. I never even looked at other schools or never gave them a thought.”

Anderson, a business administration major who is using up her senior eligibility in rodeo this season, plans to graduate next spring.

She is the only senior among the four-member UW team and is making her second CNFR appearance. She currently is eighth in the goat tying average going into the final section of competitors Friday night. She will return for her first championship round Saturday.

“When I came here four years ago, the UW women’s program was struggling,” Anderson says, noting that there were not as many women on the team compared to the men’s club.

By her sophomore year, more women joined the Cowgirls’ team.

One of those was Webb, who is a year younger than Anderson. Webb always knew where she was going to rodeo: UW. Her dad, Butch, was a saddle bronc rider for the Pokes, and older sister Dee competed for the Cowgirls, qualifying for the CNFR in goat tying.

Webb, a marketing junior who will graduate in three more semesters, says her freshman year she scored only 80 total points that season and was still on the four-member weekly points team. That’s how thin the depth was when she came to UW.

“Now, you have to fight to get on the points team, and that’s a good thing,” she says. “Just getting more girls has helped. When we qualify more people for the CNFR, that really helps attracting more people to our team. That helps a lot.”

Webb, who has been battling fatigue since competing in three rounds in a 48-hour period, which was hard on her horse, has had time to properly rest for Saturday’s short go. She is the national barrel racing leader and needs just one more good run to secure a national title.

Howard says their experience is paying off and has helped their two younger team members this week. Freshman Cori Terry, from McKinnon, and junior Casey Reimler, from Rozet, qualified in goat tying but had mixed results.

“Both Kailee and Amelia have been here before in the CNFR. They have seen what it takes to get it done, and it’s paying off,” Howard says.

Both Anderson and Webb are looking to redeem themselves in the finals after disappointing ends to their season.

“Last year didn’t go very well for me. In the first round, I got off and stepped on my horse’s foot, which has never happened before,” causing her to hit the arena dirt, she says.

She rebounded in the second round, placing sixth but, in the third go, Anderson tied the goat’s toes and had to restring, costing her valuable time.

“I’m looking for a little bit of redemption for how awful I did last year. I just wanted to go out there this week and make three good runs that I know I could make,” she says. “As for the finals, I actually don’t try to think about any of it at all. The more I think about it, the more I get nervous. I try to keep it out of my mind and jus focus on the matter at hand.”

Webb made last season’s CNFR short go, but, heading into the arena, her horse got too close to the gate, crushing Webb’s leg. The injury hampered her final run; Webb didn’t score any points that night.

Slowed by the injury and horse troubles for much of the new season, Webb struggled and finished just 10th in the final CRMR point standings. But, as a proven veteran with CNFR experience, she was kept on the points team all season.

The move has worked, with Webb the national barrel racing leader this week since the opening round, which she won.

“I’m not surprised what I’ve done this week, but I try not to overanalyze things. It’s just another rodeo, and none of that matters right now,” she says. “I’m not thinking about Saturday night. I am treating it like it’s another rodeo, trying to keep my horse rested and hydrated, that’s my main focus. The extra time off before the short go has been good for him. What’s good for my horse is good for me, because I couldn’t do it without him.”

With the season wrapping up, and two straight regional runner-up teams, Webb sees a bright future for the Cowgirls’ program.

“We only have one senior on the points team this season. I think we definitely could be in contention for the region title easily next season,” she says.

Anderson, the veteran of the club, knows she’s leaving a program on the rise.

“I am really excited to see where they go from here in the future,” she says. “I really think it’s going to be a really strong team. They have a lot of good young competitors on the team, and they will be pretty strong.”

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