Kailee Webb celebrated her regional barrel racing title for just a couple of hours Sunday. Then it was off to Coe Library to study for an exam later in the week.
Webb earlier in the afternoon put on a dominating performance in barrel racing, winning her specialty event for the third straight rodeo in Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) competition to help lead the Cowgirls to the team title in the home finale.
The Cowgirls, just like the fall’s final rodeo, won first place in the spring’s season-ending home rodeo. With the victory in the 67th annual Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo, the UW women punched their ticket to next month’s College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) at the Casper Events Center.
“We’re patient, and we’re a young team. It’s just going to get better and better and better,” a smiling UW Coach George Howard said after the team scores were announced. “We’re back on track.”
Howard explained how his team has gone from the bottom rung of the CRMR the past four seasons to a club built to compete the next few years.
With no seniors on the four-woman team that Howard selected each week, the Cowgirls finished second in the CRMR behind perennial regional power Gillette College. Just the top two regional teams qualify for the CNFR.
The Pronghorns wrapped up the regional title weeks ago, scoring 2,804.9 points during the 10-rodeo season schedule. The Cowgirls, who have not placed this high in the CRMR since the 2009-2010 season, were second with 2,295 points to hold off third-place Northeastern Junior College (NJC) at 2,133.33 points.
“It’s a relief to win this last rodeo. I attribute this to home-field advantage,” Howard said. His team held a slim lead against NJC heading into the season’s final competition.
The Cowgirls took advantage of the familiarity of the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena to score 445 team points, their best outing of the year. NJC couldn’t quite catch UW, and wound up as the runners-up with 360 points. Sheridan College was a distant third with 265 points.
The Cowgirls will send three women to the CNFR in the goat tying competition and one barrel racer, giving Howard a balanced club. And it was Webb who led the way on Sunday, but she needed a big win to secure her first regional barrel racing title.
The biology/pre-pharmacy sophomore from Isabel, S.D., was just 15 points behind season-long leader Melanie Roman of Lamar Community College coming into the final weekend. Webb dominated the event, winning both the opening and short go rounds to earn the overall victory in the average to score 180 individual points.
Webb ran away with the individual regional title with 895 points, while Roman remained stuck at 730 points. The UW Cowgirl won three of the five spring rodeos, made the short round in four of the competitions and won three consecutive long go rounds to head to the CNFR on a major roll.
“I had a horse change and ran a different one this spring. He really likes the deep ground indoors, and he basically contributed a lot to all my wins,” Webb said. “It’s pretty awesome to win the regional title. In high school, I was always a tipped barrel away from qualifying for nationals, and I never won a championship back then. In fact, I didn’t win a whole lot, so, this is pretty bittersweet.”
Webb says she’s not even thinking about the CNFR — not just yet, anyway. She wants to first get through finals at UW. She has three major tests this week, and wraps up the school year with three more during finals week, which gives her a chance to rest her horse the next couple of weeks.
“I won’t even have time to celebrate this win. I’m off to the library to work on my big group project,” she said smiling.
Webb had plenty of help from her teammates this weekend, especially Amelia Anderson and Josee Vogel in goat tying. Anderson, a Forsyth, Mont., junior, split first in the opening round, and wound up splitting fifth in the average with Vogel, a Pavillion sophomore. Vogel came through from the ninth-spot to place in the overall average. The pair scored 155 points in the event.
Vogel also added third-place barrel racing points. The fourth member of the team, Karlee Peterson, a freshman from Sturgis, S.D., competed in breakaway roping, but did not place.
Anderson, who finished as the region’s runner-up in goat tying, will compete in that event with Vogel and Peterson. Vogel placed fourth in the region.
The UW men didn’t fare quite as well as their Cowgirl counterparts over the weekend. The Cowboys scored just 100 team points and finished in the middle of the regional standings.
Chadron State College (CSC) had the men’s title wrapped up last month with 4,460 points. By winning Sunday’s championship, Casper College overtook Gillette College for the coveted second-place spot to the CNFR. The T-Birds accumulated 3,490.8 points on the year, while Gillette College scored 3,360. The Pokes finished seventh the season with 2,595 points.
The T-Birds won Sunday’s team championship with 432.5 points, while Eastern Wyoming College had 430 and Sheridan College placed third with 395 points.
Besides the top two teams qualifying for the CNFR, the best three individuals in each event also earn the opportunity to compete in college rodeo’s top event. Two Cowboys qualified: LaSalle, Colo., sophomore Jacob Smith, who won the regional bull riding title, and Dillon Simonson in steer wrestling. The Purdum, Neb., senior finished as the region’s third-best bulldogger.
The Cowboys will get a third qualifier for the CNFR — Jaden Clark, of Wellfleet, Neb., in bareback riding. He earns an automatic bid because he is the regional student director.
Smith placed fourth in Sunday’s bull riding average, and teammate Brock Wahlert, of Casper, added points in bareback riding, but did not place in the average. Jess Davison, who marked on two head, won the bull riding competition. However, the Miles City, Mont., rider was not among the six-man UW team selected before the weekend’s competition.