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Published September 13, 2017
Veteran University of Wyoming rodeo Coach George Howard is always looking at the big picture.
Sure, it’s nice to compete for a Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) championship each season, but the coach who has led UW’s rodeo program the past 20 years looks beyond that. Instead, the focus is always to build up for the year-end College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR).
With the new season beginning this weekend at the Chadron State College (CSC) rodeo in Chadron, Neb., Howard will send out a veteran women’s team that has been on the rise nationally the last two seasons. The men’s team will be revamped in hopes of more success in the arena after years of competing for CRMR titles.
For the past two seasons, the Cowgirls have been one of the two best regional women’s programs and, last season, the UW women came through at the CNFR in stunning fashion, returning in the final night to finish as the national runners-up.
“We do have experience coming back. They have all competed in weekend jackpots this summer, and they’re tuned in and ready to go,” Howard says.
Three of last year’s CNFR qualifiers all return, including the only senior, Kailee Webb, selected for this weekend’s four-member club whose points will count toward the team standings.
After a rough fall season a year ago, Webb steadily improved in the spring to finish among the top 10 barrel racers in the region -- a year after winning the CRMR title. For much of last year’s CNFR competition, the Isabel, S.D., senior was the national leader and wound up third overall in the final standings.
She and graduated senior Amelia Anderson, of Forsyth, Mont., scored all the team’s national points that propelled the Cowgirls to their highest finish since 2009, when that team won the national title.
Also returning for another crack at the CNFR is a pair of Wyoming competitors: Casey Reimler, a Rozet senior; and McKinnon sophomore Cori Terry. Neither Cowgirl made the CNFR’s short go, but they are experienced hands.
Reimler was third in the CRMR all-around total points, competing in all three women’s events, plus team roping, while Terry was the goat-tying leader for much of the season before winding up second in the region. She also competes in breakaway roping.
The newcomer this season is Northeastern Junior College (Sterling, Colo.) transfer Nicole Sederstrom, from Goodland, Kan. Howard says Sederstrom has been “knocking on the door” and has come close twice to qualifying for the CNFR. The junior is a barrel racer, and breakaway and team roper.
The men’s club returns four team members with CNFR experience. For the past few years, the team has struggled with the right combinations on the six-man team, leaving the club around the fifth-place slot in the region.
Howard hopes the experience of Denton and Dusty Taylor, Jacob Smith and Brock Wahlert will help the men’s club this season.
The Taylor brothers, from Craig, Colo., are the Cowboys’ top team roping duo, qualifying for last season’s CNFR short go. Smith, a senior from LaSalle, Colo., won the regional bull riding title two seasons ago but did not qualify for the CNFR last year. Wahlert, a Casper senior, was third in the regional bareback riding standings last year and barely missed a CNFR bid.
Howard will select from among new competitors to fill out the starting rotation this weekend. Gillette College transfer Casey Sellers, from Buffalo, will be in all the timed events, plus he’s also a roper. Howard will then select between high school national champion team roper JC Flake, from Mesa, Ariz., and steer wrestler; or Queensland, Australia, native Kolt Ferguson for the sixth spot. Ferguson rides saddle broncs, and is a steer wrestler and roper.
“We do have some experience back on the men’s side, and we should be OK,” Howard says.