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High Hopes for UW Rodeo Teams This Season

September 14, 2016

It has been a few years since University of Wyoming rodeo Coach George Howard has seen this much potential depth for both his men’s and women’s teams.

How that depth develops during his 19th season will be played out during five fall and five spring rodeos when the season kicks off Sept. 16-18 at Chadron State College.

What has Howard looking forward to this season is a pair of teams with just one senior each in the selected starting lineups for the opening weekend. That doesn’t mean the teams are void of experience, because his entire women’s team returns fresh off a second-place showing in last season’s Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) standings.

All four women competed in last June’s year-ending College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR), where the Cowgirls finished among the top 20 teams nationwide. Not bad for a team that was composed of all underclassmen.

After a strong first half of the season -- the team was sitting second in the CRMR at the break -- the UW men struggled in the spring to place fifth in the final regional standings. With a partial qualifying team at the CNFR, the Cowboys placed 36th overall.

“Right now, the kids look sharp. I can’t complain too much about that,” Howard says. “We have some good returners and a lot of good, new kids.”

The Cowgirls’ only senior is Amelia Anderson, from Forsyth, Mont., who competes in all three women’s events (goat tying, breakaway roping, barrel racing), plus team roping with a male partner.

Returning CRMR barrel racing champion Kailee Webb, of Isabel, S.D., is starting the year still nursing an injured knee, the same knee she tore during the CNFR’s short go round. She hit one of the barrels during a tight turn, causing her to finish out of the running. Webb placed seventh in the average.

Also competing in all three women’s events and team roping is Pavillion’s Josee Vogel. Both she and Webb are juniors.

Last season, Karlee Peterson, of Sturgis, S.D., managed to crack the starting lineup as a freshman. She returns for her second year in all three women’s events.

“All these ladies are going to have to kick it up a gear, because we have some other young ladies waiting in the wings,” Howard says of his overall depth. He has 13 total competitors entered in goat tying alone. “The competition is what keeps these ladies going.”

All seven UW team members -- a full four-member women’s team and three Cowboys -- qualified for their first CNFR last June.

Heading the men’s team is reigning regional bull riding champion Jacob Smith, a junior from LaSalle, Colo. He reached the CNFR’s championship round but did not place among the top riders.

The second CNFR qualifier returning is the club’s lone senior: bareback rider and team roper Jaden Clark, of Wellfleet, Neb. He had a solid opening CNFR round last season but did not gain a short go bid.

Three other UW Cowboys return for another season of competition. Junior Brock Wahlert, who just missed qualifying for the CNFR, will compete in bareback riding and team roping. Multiple event competitor Jess Davison is a junior from Miles City, Mont. And Brady Merritt, who was among the top five regional team ropers last season, returns with a new partner, Jett Hadley, a Wheatland sophomore. Merritt is from Fort Collins, Colo.

Rounding out the six-man team, selected by Howard, is newcomer Seth Peterson, a tie down and team roper from Minot, N.D.

“We have a good, balanced team,” Howard says. And like his women’s team, he says the men have others waiting to challenge for berths in the six-man rotation. “We have what we call ‘spur up.’ We are going to have lots of opportunities for the men’s team to choose from.”

UW’s home rodeo is the final spring event April 28-30, with the CNFR scheduled June 11-17 at the Casper Events Center.

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