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Sarah Mulholland didn't have a chance to let it sink in that she had just moved into the national breakaway roping lead.
The University of Wyoming junior successfully got the loop over the calf's head in 3.1 seconds Wednesday night at the Casper Events Center to move into the overall lead at the 60th College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR).
With two days of breakaway roping competition left, the Cowgirls will be tough to beat in the event. UW's TaNaye Carroll is sitting third in the same event, just five-tenths of a second behind her teammate. She completed her three rounds of competition the day before.
Their efforts helped push the Cowgirls to seventh in the nation, up five spots from the night before. UW is back in contention -- with a chance to defend its national title -- with 163.33 interim points, while the University of Nevada-Las Vegas leads with 280. Interim points are only temporary because the round is not yet completed. The third round ends Friday.
Mulholland, from Richland Center, Wis., wasn't even thinking about what she had just accomplished. The Cowgirl quickly left the arena to strip down her horse of its sports medicine leg wraps, blanket and saddle to switch to her goat tying horse. Her third straight run of 3.1 or better made her an instant title contender.
Mulholland's three-run time of 9.2 moved her into first place in the average and secured a spot in Saturday night's short go. She will wait and see if any other competitors top her mark with just the Thursday and Friday night performances remaining before the finals.
"I know I'm going to make it back to the short round. I want the lead at the end of Saturday night. That's what I'm going for," Mulholland said after the goat tying event in which she had a 6.9 tie, her only successful run of the week. Her other two attempts ended with no-times when the goat kicked out both times.
She admitted that being this consistent at the CNFR surprises her. Mulholland said
she's been roping well all spring, but luck has not been on her side. She's broken
several barriers and some of the calves she's drawn have not been that good.
"My horse has been pretty good getting out of the box and getting me into position. I take my shot when I get it and hope I'm in two or the low threes," she said.
Teammate Nikki Steffes moved up the barrel racing average after her best time of the week at 14.62 seconds. Her three-run time of 44.03 placed her sixth in the average with two nights of competition left. Steffes, the defending national all-around champion, also has one more round of goat tying. She knows she has some catching up to do in the short go.
"I'm just going for first place right now," she said. "The barrel racing leaders were
so far out in front of me I knew I couldn't win the average so I was just tying to
win the round. Hopefully this will move me higher up in the average."
As the week has progressed, Steffes' times have improved, especially during the night performances.
"My horse fed off the crowd. He works harder with the lights, the crowd and the music," she said. "I had two nice runs in the slack, but not anything like this tonight."
The only UW Cowboy to compete Wednesday night was team roper Mark Morrison. However, he and partner Brad Johnson of Gillette College suffered their third straight no-time. Johnson got hold of the steer's horns, but Morrison, a senior from Killdeer, N.D., missed the heels.
The UW men tumbled to 30th place with 100 interim points. Panhandle State University leads the men's field with 370 interim points.