Anytime you have your top two point-getters sitting on the sidelines, it makes for some nervous energy.
But the Pronghorn men met the challenge head-on with a big-time showcase of depth and talent Sunday afternoon at the Gillette College rodeo at the Cam-Plex East Pavilion.
They were 10 points off the winning mark, but the Gillette College men did retake the lead in the Central Rocky Mountain Region standings with their second-place finish.
The Pronghorn women had a mediocre short-round on Sunday, but stayed in the hunt with a third-place effort. Northeastern Junior College from Sterling, Colo., moved to the top of the regional standings with a second-place finish this weekend. The University of Wyoming slipped back into second and Gillette College remained in third place, 87 points out of first.
“We came in going after a top-three finish. I thought the guys really stepped up,” Pronghorn coach Will LaDuke said. “We didn’t have a good girl’s rodeo this week. If we want to stay in the mix, we’re going to have to pick it up a little bit and get us some first-place finishes at the next couple of rodeos.”
Lance Creek cowboy Ace Thurston was spot on all weekend in the steer wrestling. He followed up a personal best 3.4-second run in the long-go with a working man’s 4.1 on Sunday to win the steer wrestling average. Thurston, who made the short-go at the College National Finals Rodeo last year, won the average with 7.5 on two.
“He was a slower-starting steer today. I was watching him earlier and I knew he liked to set up. So I had to see a good move and be ready to catch him,” said Thurston, who was second in the short-go. “I had to see this steer out to the end of the chute gate before I could leave.”
Thurston had the best time going in, stayed aggressive and made the catch and won the first rodeo of the spring schedule in fine fashion.
Spearfish, S.D., cowboy Dane Kissack has a philosophy — place with the bad ones, win with the good ones.
This weekend he would have had better luck trying to draw to the inside straight than he had drawing calves. But to his credit, he placed fifth in the average in the tie-down roping with 24.4 on two.
Kissack won the Badlands Circuit Finals and was ranked fifth in the PRCA world standings in January. Sometimes you just have to chase ’em, rope ’em and let the rest sort itself out.
“This calf wasn’t any good. It was just a bad draw, so I did all I could to score some points,” Kissack said. “All you can do is make the best of it and go on to the next one.”
Kissack and Brit Ellerman of Wyoming were fourth in the average in team roping. They will be roping together for the remainder of the spring. They didn’t get the best draws either, but they put together a 9.2 in the long-go and came back on Sunday with a 12.2 to place fourth with 21.4 on two.
“Brit and I drew two really, really poor steers. I felt like we did a good job to even make the short-round,” Kissack said. “We drew another horrible steer today and still placed. We’re both roping good. We just need to draw a little better and we’ll be winning.”
Devan Reilly of Sheridan finished fourth in the average in the bareback riding, scoring for the Pronghorns with two steady rides. He put up a 65 in the long-go and came back with one better with a ride of 68.
“The ride felt great today. I’ve been working on a lot of stuff like making sure I can feel that horse, picking up spurs and marking out,” said Reilly, who is ranked No. 2 in the regional bareback standings. “He made a little stumble there, but I kept my spurs lifted. I feel like I was riding back in the fall. I was strong through the whole ride.”
Northeastern Junior College’s Hayden Segelke put some distance between her and second place in the regional barrel racing standings. The regional leader had a spectacular 14.69 on Sunday to win.
Newcastle cowgirl Crystal Hershey led a three-rider Pronghorn contingent, finishing fourth in the average with 31.14 on two runs. She was steady on both days.
“I had a better first barrel this time,” Hershey said. “If I have a good first barrel the other two just kind of fall into place.”
Kristi Steffes of Vale, S.D., was fifth with runs of 15.66 and 15.50. Emily Faber of Rozet was ninth in the average. Faber also finished fifth in goat tying with an average of 18.6.
Megan Belus of Buffalo had the hot hand in the breakaway roping long-go with a sizzling time of 2.4. But she missed her calf on Sunday. She had enough going to score team points with a fourth-place finish in the average.
“The Gillette rodeo sets the tone for the rest of the spring,” Hershey said. “Just from the atmosphere at our practices, we have lot of heart on our girls team and I think we can come back.”
The Pronghorn men and women are back in action March 29-31 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.