Tri-State Country shines at College National Finals Rodeo

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
for Tri-State Livestock News
Taygen Schuelke, a Newell, S.D. cowboy riding for Sheridan College, won the men's all-around at the College National Finals Rodeo. He earned third in saddle bronc riding and fourth in bull riding. Photo by Dan Hubbell.

Great crowds turned out for Saturday night’s final performance of the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. The cowboys and cowgirls delivered one superlative performance after another, June 21. The home region claimed a good share of the titles and prizes.

Sheridan College no doubt popped the most buttons as their sophomore roughstock star Taygen Schuelke walked away wearing the Men’s All Around crown. Schuelke spurred out 296 aggregate points on four head to cinch third in saddle bronc riding. His high mark was 82.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Ice Pick to win the finals short-go, and he also scored a 77.5 in the opening round and 75.5 in round two. His draw weakened on him in the third round for a 60.5 that really hurt his total.

Schuelke’s other event is bull riding, where in spite of bucking off in round three he finished fourth with 240.5 points on three head. Only one man, champion Joe Frost from Panhandle State, managed to ride all four head. Montana State University cowboy Nevada Newman stayed a half point ahead of Sheuelke to claim third with 241 on three head.

All of Sheridan’s bragging rights did not rest with Schuelke, since Schuelke’s schoolmate Zeke Thurston claimed the bronc riding reserve championship for their school – missing the championship by a half point. Thurston had two 81-point efforts, in round one and in the short go, where he was matched against Frontier’s Dakota Roan. His other 71.5 and a 77 brought his aggregate to 310.5 – not quite enough to snatch the glory from Texan CoBurn T. Bradshaw.

Doing their part to assist Sheridan in keeping the cowboy shine on northeastern Wyoming, Gillette College finished fifth in women’s team standings. They also get to hang a couple National Championship plaques on their wall because of freshman cowgirl Taylor Engesser from Spearfish, S.D. She picked up the women’s rookie award, as well as the barrel racing championship.

Saturday night Engesser blasted around the barrels in what Casper chatter was calling “probably an arena record” of 13.58 – certainly the fastest time of this CNFR. Adding that to her previous 14.34, 13.83, and 14.03 gave her better than two tenths seconds lead in the average with 55.78. That win gave her 25 points over women’s rookie runner up Shay Spitz of south Plains College. Calm and collected before her final run Engesser said she was having “a ton of fun,” especially at the performances, and although she was “really excited” she wasn’t at all nervous. Her solid barrel horse Rowdy, which Taylor says is her brother’s heel horse, gave everything and then some to the championship weekend – “moonlighting” with Engesser’s younger sister, Rikki, at the South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals in Belle Fourche. The draw just worked out so the girls’ runs did not overlap. The Casper arena is tiny and indoor, Belle is big and outdoor, and apparently Rowdy thrives on variety. He also loves being first, so he put Rikki at the top of the pack as South Dakota’s 2014 high school barrel racing champ.

Taylor said they owe special thanks to longtime top Wyoming Quarter Horse breeder and horsewoman Mary Strand, whom they met at Casper, for allowing them to run their horses outside on her place while they were there. Not having to be stalled, able to be on grass, relaxed in a normal atmosphere is huge for the horse and Taylor said that was “the best thing that happened to me down here.”

In keeping with Saturday night’s energy at the CNFR, there had been only three 13-second barrel runs from 38 contestants during the first three rounds, yet the final twelve plugged into the crowd and competitor adrenaline to produce nine runs under the 14-second barrier.

Also representing our region well, Amy Deichert, riding for Chadron State College, took home fifth and 130 points for her 56.47 barrel racing aggregate. Teammate Shelby Winchell tied for second in the goat tying with 25.9 on four goats. That was a good boost to their women’s team, which finished reserve champion with 472 points. Central Arizona college topped women’s team standings, and Gillette College came in fifth with 345 points.

Proud rodeo grandparents and South Dakota historians Jim and Peg Aplan were on hand to cheer for granddaughter Georgia Diez as she claimed third in barrel racing with a nice 56.41 on four runs and ended up fourth in the tough all around race. Her parents grew up in South Dakota but she now lives in Arizona and rodeos for Cochise College. An all around cowgirl since early childhood, Georgia just keeps getting better and also held a CNFR berth in Goat Tying and racked up a pair of 6’s before a third round fumble. She’s looking forward to SDRA and NDRA competition this summer. She said her CNFR goal for 2015 is to qualify in breakaway as well as goats and barrels.

Speaking of breakaway, University of Nebraska student Lindsay Adamson turned in 3.6, 2.9, 2.6 and 3.1 to claim fourth in the aggregate and 105 points with 12.2.

In bareback riding, three schools in TSLN-country did well. Montana State University’s Tyler Waltz took the opening round with an 82 and hung and rattled for third in the average with scores totaling 311.5. Wyatt Bloom riding for Montana State University claimed fourth in aggregate scores with 309.5. Wyatt Clark of University of Wyoming hung on to fifth place in the average with 301.5. Those three made a big splash for the north country, since only nine bareback riders covered all four head.

Steer wrestling for Dickinson State, Cameron Morman threw his first steer in 5.4, adding a 5.6, 8.6 and 14.5 to finish seventh. Yep, you guessed it, he broke out on that final steer. Otherwise he’d have tied Oklahoman Stephen Culling to win the short go and would have ended the weekend fourth in the average. Cameron also had a calf roping berth in the CNFR, but couldn’t seem to break out of the 10’s and 11’s. He still finished eighth out of 38 in the average, with 42.8 on four.

Northwest College’s Shawn Bird and Zach Schweigert started out hot in team roping with a 6. 6 and 6.4 in the opening rounds, but things turned cold with a leg and then a no time to finish ninth overall.