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One Gillette College team can be caught, while the other's overall team lead is more than likely out of reach for the University of Wyoming rodeo teams.
The Cowboys and Cowgirls get back into the arena in Torrington as Eastern Wyoming College rodeo hosts the first spring rodeo March 26-28.
With only the top two Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) teams gaining automatic bids to this June's College Nationals Finals Rodeo in Casper, the UW men will have to scramble to even make the second-place position. Gillette College has a huge 1,600 point lead over the fourth-place UW men, so realistically the Cowboys will be looking to reach the number two spot in the overall men's standings.
Perennial CRMR champion Central Wyoming College (CWC) has 2,700 points, just 205 behind the Pronghorns while Northeaster Junior College has 1,725. UW is next with 1,395.
"It will be pretty tough to catch Gillette on the men's side," UW Coach George Howard says. "But I'm not too worried about our women."
The women's race is a little tighter, especially between second-place CWC and third-place UW. Gillette College also leads the women's division with 1,590 points and Howard says the race for the overall team title is not yet over. CWC is second with 658.33 points and the Cowgirls are just 55 points back.
"I think our girls have finally settled in and have matured just a bit since last semester," Howard says. "I expect them just to zoom right up there."
The men will be aided by a new competitor in the lineup -- Thomas Baker of Shoshoni, who won the bareback riding a few years back for Sheridan College. He left school for two years and has one semester of eligibility remaining. Baker also will compete in steer wrestling.
Four Cowboys selected for the six-man UW men's team this weekend are ranked among the top three in their individual events. Cousins Chance and Dahl Nicholls of Riverton are the region's top roping team. Gillette's Merritt Smith is third in saddle bronc riding, while teammate Cameron Weddle of Milaca, Minn., is splitting third in the tie down roping competition.
Individually, the Cowgirls also could have three members of the team sitting high in the standings, but Nikki Steffes leads or is the co-leader of all three women's events. The school's all-time leading scorer and a three-time national goat tying runner-up and the winner of four regional all-around titles is competing, but her points do not count in the Cowgirls' overall production.
She has been granted one more year of eligibility because she is the region's student director. Dana Weiser of Wheatland is tied with Steffes for the breakaway roping lead. Weiser, along with teammates Laramie Pope of Delta, Colo., and Cayla Allen of Bellvue, Colo., will compete this weekend in all three women's events. They will be joined by barrel racer Josie Davison of Miles City, Mont.
Davison is third in the region barrel racing standings, while Pope holds the same position in the breakaway roping competition and Allen is fifth.
UW's home rodeo is April 30-May 2.