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Three University of Wyoming rodeo team members opened up in fairly good shape on the first day of the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) Sunday at the Casper Events Center.
Merritt Smith, a junior from Gillette, took his horse to the buzzer in the opening "Bulls, Broncs and Breakaway" event, scoring 72.5 points in the saddle bronc competition, putting him in the top 10 after the first round. He will compete in Tuesday's slack section and will wind up his third round during Friday night's performance.
Two slack sections will be held Monday and Tuesday mornings followed by the first of five nightly performances beginning Tuesday at 7 p.m. College's biggest rodeo concludes with the championship round Saturday night.
Smith was the only UW Cowboy to compete Sunday afternoon, but two of his female counterparts were in the arena.
Wheatland junior Dana Weiser got her rope over the calf's head in quick fashion in just two seconds flat in the breakaway roping competition, but her horse broke out too soon, adding a 10-second penalty to her total. That left her among the competition's top 12 contestants. Weiser will compete in Tuesday's slack and will finish her third round Wednesday evening.
Each competitor competes three times during the week and all are guaranteed at least one performance in the night shows. The top 12 times and scores from the three rounds then advance to Saturday's short go.
The final UW representative competing Sunday was all-around star Nikki Steffes, who recorded a 2.4 in breakaway roping, putting her third overall after round one. Her points will not count in the Cowgirls' overall point standings because she has used up her four years of eligibility. However, as the region's student director, Steffes is granted the chance to compete in her fifth CNFR.
Steffes will be in Tuesday's breakaway roping slack section and finishes her third round Wednesday. The two-time national all-around champion is competing in all three women's events this week. She will compete in Monday and Tuesday's barrel racing slack sections and will wrap up the competition Friday. Steffes, who has placed second in the CNFR goat tying competition, will be in both slack sections and then will finish her third appearance in the arena Thursday night.
Weiser also will compete in goat tying during the two slack sections and again Thursday night. Two other UW Cowgirls are competing in barrel racing. Juniors Ilene Choal of Laramie and Josie Davison of Miles City, Mont., also competed in the two slack sessions. Choal completes her third round Tuesday night and Davison Thursday.
The UW men also have five Cowboys competing this week on four team roping teams. All five saw their first action Monday in the opening slack round and will also be in Tuesday's slack section.
The region's top duo of UW's Jordan Steele, a senior from Gillette, and Gillette College's Dustin Smith, complete their third round Wednesday.
The regional runners-up, Gillette senior Beau Miller and partner Cole Dorenkamp, Gillette College, will be in Friday's performance. Also competing that night will be the third place team made up of Pavillion cousins Dahl and Chance Nicholls, a sophomore and junior, respectively.
The fourth UW team roper, Jackson sophomore Riley Millward, will finish his third round Tuesday with partner Dane Kissack of Gillette College.