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If there is ever a time to take advantage of a home arena, it has to be this weekend for the University of Wyoming women's rodeo team, but putting on a home event does have its distractions.
A two-week surge has vaulted the UW Cowgirls into sole possession of second place in the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) going into the 61st annual Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo at the indoor Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena.
Even though the UW women didn't win last weekend's Northeastern Junior College (NJC) rodeo in Sterling, Colo., their third place finish was enough to push them into the all-important top two in the CRMR standings.
Just the first and second place regional teams earn automatic bids to compete in June's College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) at the Casper Events Center.
With the third-place finish came 230 more team points to UW's overall season total of 1,333.33 points, moving the Cowgirls ahead of regional rival Central Wyoming College (CWC), which slipped to third place at 1,306.63 points.
Season-long regional leader, Gillette College, has the top position wrapped up with 3,185 points. The big question for this weekend's final regular season rodeo is who will be the second team joining the Pronghorns at the CNFR.
UW Coach George Howard says it's nice having the final regional rodeo at home, but performing in front of the home crowd sometimes will make his team tight.
"It all comes down to this weekend and there is pressure on us," Howard says. Those pressures include attempting to put on a good home rodeo and performing well in the arena. He says the pressure is on the Cowgirls to do well because the CNFR berth is on the line this weekend.
The first of four Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo performances begins Friday at 7 p.m., followed by two Saturday sessions at 1 and 7 p.m. The short go starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $5 per pers for each performance, and children under 12 are admitted free.
Just three weeks ago the defending champion UW women's team was in danger of not qualifying for the CNFR. But facing a season with an entirely new lineup, Howard has tinkered with a starting lineup all year in hopes of finding the right combination.
A new person stepped up this past weekend att he NJC rodeo to put the Cowgirls right back into contention for the runner-up regional spot.
Laramie's Ilene Choal, an anthropology junior, who is just sixth in the regional barrel racing standings, won for the first time in her collegiate career. She took the short go with a time of 16.79 seconds and was second in the opening round to place first in the average. She alone accounted for 170 of the team's total production of 230 points.
The other 60 team points for the Cowgirls came from Wheatland junior Dana Weiser, computer science, who won the opening breakaway roping round with a sub-two second time of 1.8. But she couldn't repeat in the short go round and had a no time and did not place.
Weiser is now tied for second place in the breakaway regional standings with UW's Nikki Steffes, who also is first in the CRMR in goat tying, barrel racing and is the all-around leader for the fifth straight season. However, her eligibility on the UW women's rodeo team is used up, and she is competing because she is the region student director. She also will compete at the CNFR, but her points will not count for the UW women.
Both Choal and Weiser will be two of the four women on the Cowgirls' team this weekend. They will be joined by Josie Davison and Kaycee Nelson.
The Cowboys will not send a full team to the CNFR this season, but several individuals are battling to qualify in individual events.
The UW men posted 255 points at the NJC rodeo last weekend to place sixth overall. Gillette College swept the rodeo as the Pronghorn men totaled 515 points.
UW's Jordan Steele, agricultural business senior from Aladdin, and Gillette College's Dustin Smith combined to take the team roping title winning the short go and placing second in the opening round to win the average.
The final 85 points came in the saddle bronc competition when Merritt Smith, animal science junior from Gillette, split fourth in the average.
Both Smith and Steele will be in the men's lineup this weekend along with team roping cousins Beau Miller, Chase and Dahl Nicholls and Cameron Weddle.
Listed are the team scores from the NJC rodeo and the top six individuals in the average:
Women's team scores -- Gillette College (GC) 370; Lamar Community College (LCC) 310; University of Wyoming (UW) 230; Colorado State University (CSU) 200; Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) 150; Chadron State College, 140; Casper College (CC) 110; Northeastern Junior College (NJC) 90; Laramie County Community College 70.
Men's team scores -- GC, 515; CC, 495; CWC, 393.3; EWC, 325; NJC, 263.3; UW, 255; LCCC, 235; LCC, 220; Otero Community College (OCC), 185; Sheridan College (SC), 180; CSC and CSU, 165.
Goat tying -- Lacey Roberts, CSC, 17.3; Heather Bregar, UW and Jordan Thurstan, GC, both 17.4; Kiley Scott, CC, 18; Laci Harper and Cayla Allen, both UW, 18.7.
Breakaway roping -- Jordan Thurstan, GC, 4.9; Andie Cross, EWC, 5.2; Chelsie Wilhoite, LCC, 5.2; Kendra Hemphill, LCC, 5.3; Jaime Musfelt, LCCC, 5.4; Kaylee Gallino, CSC, 6.8.
Barrel racing -- Ilene Choal, UW, 33.69; Dani Buhler, CSU, 33.72; Amy Tierney, NJC, 34.07; Nikki Steffes, UW, 34.08; Jessica Giersiepen, GC, 34.50; Annna Haaland, GC, 34.56.
Saddle bronc riding -- Cole Elshere, GC, 147; Clay Gruel, CWC, 142; Ray Tom Meiers, CC, 140; Merritt Smith, UW, and Riley Knoll, CWC, both 135; Chancy Miller, GC, 129.
Bareback riding -- Ty Breuer, CWC, 145; Chance Madsen, CC,142; Thomas Baker, UW, and Whitten Hoover, CSC, 134; Troy Bechen, CC, 133. On two.
Bull riding -- Cody Sierks, EWC, 142; Cory Hazen, OCC, 136; J.D. Harrell, CC, 128. On two.
Tie down roping -- Nathan Ramsey, NJC, 20.4; Dalton Hall, NJC, 21.3; Tyler Scnaufer, LCC, 21.5; Brady Graff, EWC, 21.6; Joey Dickens, CSU, 21.8; Daine McNenny, CWC, 22.3.
Steer wrestling -- Cole Dorenkamp, GC, and Brayden Huxtable, CC, 11.2; Travis Wondra, CC, and Gus Cross, EWC, 13; Logan McDonald, EWC, 13.6; Baylor Roche, OCC, 20.6.
Team roping -- Jordan Steele, UW/Dustin Smith, GC, 14.6; Miles Spickelmier/Cole Thoreson, LCCC, 17; Chelsea Wilhoite/Tyler Ingo, LCC, 19.1; Sam Irin/Ethan Rodne, SC, 22; Brett Berry/Tyson Twitchell, UW, 22.4; Clinton Lambrecht/Kody Schwager, CSC, 24.8.