CNFR champions among us | TSLN.com

CNFR champions among us

The parking lot at Casper's (Wyo.) Event Center is empty. All the trucks and trailers have threaded Interstate highways to get ponies back home. Another College National Finals Rodeo is in the books, and Tri-State country "done good!"

A championship Cactus Saddle topped the heap of loot Jordan Thurston-Miller hauled home to Lance Creek, Wyo. The long dry spell must have produced tough goats in her country, 'cause Jordan made the ones in Casper look like wimps! Or maybe it's just those good Miller and Thurston rodeo bloodlines holding true. Whatever the cause, her amazing 6.3, 6.2, 6.2, and 6.1 seconds on four goat tying runs not only proved this young athlete's ability to constantly improve her performance, but also won the short go and the average and earned 330 total points for Jordan and her team from Gillette College. Along with her new saddle Jordan carried home a Maynard Buckle and $1,000 in scholarship funds for her NIRA win.

Jordan's not this region's only goat tying hero, though. Amy Tierney, a South Dakota cowgirl rodeoing for Chadron State College also threw her hands up consistently – in 6.5, 6.6, 6.4, and 6.5 seconds. Her four-goat total of 26.0 earned her third in the average and third in the short go; bringing in 145 points for her team.

Hot on Amy's heels was Shaylee Hance, riding with the cowgirls of Central Wyoming College. Only three women stayed under 7 seconds on all their goats, but Shaylee came very close, earning fourth in the average with a 7.1, 6.6, 6.4, and 6.7. Her 26.8 aggregate garnered 100 team points.

Another goat tying flash for Tri-State country was Nebraska's Shelby Winchell, who goes to school with Amy at Chadron. She posted a 6.2 in the opening round to tie with defending and repeat All Around Champion cowgirl Hayden Segelke as well as Thurston-Miller but Lady Luck changed the tempo on Shelby in the third go as a fatal "no time" stopped the music on her 2013 CNFR.

The Eastern Wyoming College men's team went home boasting a couple Reserve Champion team ropers. North Dakota cowboys Derek Weinreis and Levi O'Keffe looped their way through a 7.3, 6.2, 6.6, and 6.1 to accumulate 26.2 seconds on four steers. That was good enough for the number two slot in the average and 220 reserve champ points for each roper, nicely enhancing their team standings. A few speed demons kept the duo from winning a single round, but they made a smooth exit with a second place tie in the Finals.

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Speaking of ropers, University of Wyoming cowgirl Kaycee Nelson clocked 3.4, 2.6, 2.6, and 3.2 to finish Reserve Champion in the Breakaway Roping with 11.8 on four head. She was rewarded with 165 points and a $500 scholarship from the CNFR Committee. Icing the cake was Kaycee's horse Tuffenuff to Smoke scoring 142.5 points to be runner-up for AQHA Horse of the Year in the women's division.

The Breakaway short go was won by Katey Anthony riding under the Tarleton State banner as she turned in the fastest run of the rodeo, a blazing 2.0. The real speedster of the week, however, was Kimberlyn Fehringer from Idaho State University whose championship total time on four head was 9.7.

Two Gillette College bareback riders made the short round. Casey Breuer (whose brother was 2011 NIRA Champion and now rides at 5th in PRCA standings) drew Mo Betta Rodeo Company's Darth and went right to work scratching out a 73 point ride. Combined with his opening round-winning 81.5, a disappointing 69.5 from round two, and 72.5 points in round three, his aggregate reached 296.5 – just half a point behind third and half a point ahead of fifth. When the wolves of the college rodeo world are howling, fourth is nothing to be ashamed of; and the 296.5 team points were very important.

Casey's schoolmate Devan Reilly – electrician by trade – got the juice turned on to spark a sizzling 81 aboard Harry Vold's Little Linda, lighting up the final round by a wide two point margin! That went with his previous 77, 65.5, and 69 to give him 292.5 on four, seventh place in the average, and 130 points to help his team.

University of Wyoming's Tyler Schnaufer ended up ninth in the tie-down roping average. His times were consistent and respectable – 10.3, 10.3, 11.3, and 12.1, Gillette College roper Dane Kissack from Spearfish, S.D., captured second in the second round with an 8.6 and his horse Stylish Lil Lizzy tied Cherrys Champ, ridden by Ty Erickson of Montana State University for third place in Men's AQHA Horse of the Year scoring. Both cowboys had a no time in the third round, keeping them from the tie-down roping short go.

In the classic event Travis Schroth, wearing the Miles City colors, picked up 263.5 team points. His bronc riding scores of 52.5, 74.5, and 63.0 reserved him a chute in the short round, where he drew Frontier Rodeo's Midnight Delight. Their 73.5 marking tied Schroth for fourth in the round. Combined with his previous scores, his aggregate score of 263.5 tied him with James Greeson of Sam Houston State for fourth in the average. Travis' brother Dillon Schroth also competed for the Miles City school.

In a side note, Canadian bronc rider Jake Watson, representing Panhandle State University at the CNFR, took a short drive to Kaycee, Wyo., Saturday afternoon to compete in the annual Chris LeDoux roughstock match. He placed second out of 15 in the bronc riding and came back to win the 4-man Finals there. Jake then hurried back to Casper to win the CNFR short round and finish third in the bronc riding average.

ProRodeo hand Spencer Wright – of the bronc riding Spencer brothers – gave a clinic in the short round, marking 79.5 to win it. Riding under the College of Southern Idaho's banner, Wright's total on four to win the average was 299.5.

In the big man's event of steer wrestling Justin Zwiefel represented South Dakota State University proudly. He bulldogged in 5.5, 6.1, 7.0, and 7.9 to rack up a four-head total of 26.5 and 75 team points. Douglas, Wyo., cowboy Dustin Moore, who goes to school at Panhandle State University, placed eighth in the average with 7.6, 8.0, and 10.5 for 22.5.

Lauren Reiser riding for Montana State University was 10th in the barrel racing average with 57.33 seconds. Gillette College's Kristi Steffes captured fourth in the third round with a run of 14.09, and finished 11th in the average with her 57.39 aggregate time.

Spur tracks from this part of the country were scarce in the bull riding event, with no representatives in the top 15. However, in Men's All Around standings, Dane Kissack represented Gillette College in two events, racking up 80 points to finish fourth.

Gillette College's women's team scored 388.33 to finish fourth in final team standings and the Chadron State College women's team accumulated 285 points to tie for sixth.

Eastern Wyoming College earned 520 points for fourth in men's team final standings; and Gillette College had 440 points to finish eighth.

Large crowds of rodeo fans rocked the Casper Events Center throughout the week-long festivities, which included two cowboy church services, a golf tournament, softball tournament, NIRA Alumni reunion and NIRA Foundation Luncheon, Style Show, and auctions.