All those mornings waking up at 4 to take care of her horses is paying off for Kailee Webb, a member of the University of Wyoming women’s rodeo team.
The biology/pre-pharmacy sophomore from Isabel, S.D., has quietly worked her way into barrel racing title contention heading into this weekend’s season-ending home rodeo.
UW hosts the 67th annual Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo, Friday, April 29, through Sunday, May 1, at the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena.
Action begins Friday with slack and the first of two nightly performances that begin at 7 p.m. Two performances are scheduled at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and the championship round is at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets cost $5 for adults for each session, and UW students and children under age 12 are admitted free.
What’s at stake at the Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) finale are team and individual bids for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) this summer at the Casper Events Center. Just the top two regional teams earn automatic invitations to college rodeo’s biggest year-end event. Top individuals also can earn their way to the CNFR by being among the top three in the six men’s and three women’s events.
The UW women are trying to hang on to one of the coveted top two positions in the regional standings. The Cowgirls are clinging to second place, a position they’ve held for much of the two semesters, with 1,850 points through nine rodeos. The UW women lead third-place Northeastern Junior College by only 77 points.
Gillette College is the women’s regional leader with 2,579.99 points.
Chadron State College has wrapped up the men’s team title with 4,175 points. The race for second place is between Gillette College and Casper College. The Pronghorns enter the weekend with 3,140 points, while the T-Birds have 3,058.33.
Webb trails only Lamar Community College’s Melanie Roman in barrel racing. It comes down to the final rodeo this weekend. Roman leads all barrel racers with 730 points, but has just a 15-point advantage over Webb.
Webb, a 2014 Timber Lake, S.D., high school graduate, enters the home finale on a roll, having won the last two rodeos, which she credits to a new barrel racing horse that she’s breaking in this spring.
She had been using her longtime horse, “Famous Wildone,” which she received as a “Sweet 16th” birthday present, trained by older sister, Dee, a goat tyer, who was on the UW women’s rodeo team from 1995-99. Their father, Butch, also competed on the UW men’s team as a saddle bronc rider.
“’Famous Wildone’ was my wheels. Some kids got cars back then, and I got a horse,” Webb says.
Last fall, she changed horses and went with “Perks.” He suffered a tendon injury, and Webb did not use him in competition until the first spring rodeo at Eastern Wyoming College. Webb needed the change because she was in a rut, always winning a round in the fall rodeos, but not placing in the overall average.
“I was the ‘Queen of 80 points,’” she jokingly says about never scoring more than 80 individual points in any rodeo. “I didn’t have a good fall season. I’d knock down a few barrels, and I just wasn’t having one of my best years. I wasn’t placing in the average, but it did keep me in the hunt.”
That’s when her sudden transformation came about. A late-season surge has made her a CRMR title contender.
Besides Webb’s chance to win the barrel racing title, two of her teammates also are highly ranked.
Amelia Anderson and Josee Vogel are second and third in goat tying. Chadron State’s Shelby Winchell wrapped up the title weeks ago and has accumulated 1,055 individual points in the event.
Anderson, a Forsyth, Mont., junior, has 505 points, good enough for second place, and teammate Vogel, a Pavillion sophomore, has scored 470. Two others are challenging the two UW Cowgirls. Lamar’s Ashten Marchant and Chadron’s Brandi Jo Cwach both have 450 individual points.
UW Coach George Howard looks for a consistent fourth team member, which could go a long way at the CNFR.
The UW women have fallen on hard times the past four years, and now, they have a chance to wrap up second place in the region.
“We’re still a young team, but maybe it’s the experience that is kicking in for us,” Webb says. “For me personally, it’s in barrel racing, and Josee and Amelia are having a good year and are coming on strong. We’re picking up points here and there at the four spot, and that’s good. We are relying on each other more as a team and pushing each other to do better.”
The UW men have a pair of individual event leaders heading into the final home rodeo.
Jacob Smith, a sophomore from LaSalle, Colo., has all but wrapped up the regional bull riding title. He has led almost wire to wire this season, totaling 675 points. Dayton Johnston, of Sheridan College, is a distant second with 350 points.
Dillon Simonson is first in steer wrestling, but the Purdum, Neb., senior is attempting to hold off Central Wyoming College’s Coltin Hill for the bulldogging title. Simonson, who competed at last year’s CNFR with a serious knee injury, has 465 points through nine fall and spring rodeos, while Hill is just 70 points behind him.
Cousins Brady (Fort Collins, Colo.) and Reed Merritt (Greeley, Colo.) still have a chance for third place in the team roping competition. The pair have 315 points and are fourth overall in the regional standings.