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Published April 30, 2018
Even though the University of Wyoming women’s rodeo team placed first in its own Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo Sunday, it was not enough to send the four-member team to next month’s College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR).
A 197-point deficit going into the final Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) rodeo last weekend was too much for the Cowgirls to make up, despite a season-ending victory. The UW women could only chip away 60 points and fell shy of the elusive second-place finish in the region by 137 points to Eastern Wyoming College (EWC).
Just the top two teams from the region qualify full four-member women’s teams and six on the men’s side for the CNFR at the Casper Events Center.
Perennial champion Gillette College essentially wrapped up the women’s regional team title at the winter break and kept pulling away from the pack during the spring season. The Pronghorns tallied 3,640 points during the 10-event fall and spring seasons, while runner-up EWC had 2,080.33 points. The UW women scored 1,943.33 points to place third after snagging second a year ago.
“First, our women did what they could do, and it was a good win for us,” UW interim Coach Lydia Coe says about the Cowgirls’ home win. “EWC was good, too, but we just did not do enough on our side late in the season when we struggled a little bit.”
The UW men also failed to qualify as a team for college rodeo’s biggest event, placing seventh in the region with 2,690 points. Sheridan College scored back-to-back regional titles with a yearlong steady performance with 4,055 points. Casper College overtook Laramie County Community College (LCCC) on the last day for the final CNFR automatic bid, winning the Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo with 550 points.
That total was enough to give the T-Birds an overall cushion of just 10 points over LCCC, which struggled over the weekend and scored 145 points. Central Wyoming College had its best overall performance of the season, scoring 445 points in the Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena to place second in the final spring rodeo.
With the regular season wrapped up, UW will still send a handful of rodeo competitors to the CNFR as individual qualifiers. Both the women’s and men’s teams qualified two team members each, based on individual point totals throughout the fall and spring seasons. The top three individuals in each event earn automatic bids to the Casper Events Center.
Even though he did not place over the weekend, bull rider Jacob Smith, from LaSalle, Colo., wrapped up his second regional title in three years. The UW senior scored 500 points, despite placing in just four rodeos this season. Teammate Coby Lane, of Torrington, just missed earning a CNFR bid by only five points to finish fourth in the region.
For the first time in recent memory, UW will send a male/female roping team to the CNFR.
The all-Wyoming freshman roping duo of Denton Shaw, from Lusk, and Justene Hirsig, from Cheyenne, finished the season as the No. 3 team in the region. Hirsig, the header, and heeler Shaw were just five points out of second place in the regional standings.
The fourth UW qualifier is first-time competitor Kelsey Lensegrav, from Interior, S.D. The freshman barrel racer put together a strong second half of the season to wrap up second place in the region.
Lensegrav helped lead the Cowgirls to first place in the home rodeo by placing in two separate events. She was fifth in barrel racing and the runner-up in breakaway roping. The UW freshman says a strong spring barrel racing season helped qualify her for her first CNFR.
“My horse was actually a little sore in the fall. I got her a little more help in the off-season, and she really loves competing indoor arenas. But, mostly, I learned how to ride her a little bit better this spring,” Lensegrav says. “It’s been an amazing year. I love the school, and it’s been quite the experience. I’m looking forward to competing at the CNFR.”
Hirsig added 95 more team points when she and Shaw were third in the average. Senior Brock Wahlert, from LaJunta, Colo., added fourth-place points in bareback riding and was the only other UW cowboy to score points in the final rodeo.
Even though both UW teams are sending just two individuals each to the CNFR, they can still compete as a team; however, they will be short-handed compared to other clubs that will be more balanced. That didn’t deter the Cowgirls last season, when just two team members had outstanding individual performances at the CNFR and scored enough points to propel the Cowgirls to the national runner-up trophy.