SHERIDAN — Positioning for its best team finish in years, the SC rodeo team will be fighting for three individual CNFR berths this weekend.
The Sheridan College men won the Gillette College rodeo in mid-March, flying back into action after a fifth-place team finish last fall.
Sheridan’s standout performances on their way to a 440-point total edged host Gillette’s 430 and was their first team-title in five years.
Since then, Sheridan has held fifth place in Central Rocky Mountain Region Standings, with the women’s team in eighth. The top two teams and the top three individuals in each region qualify for the college finals, and while Sheridan College is out of the running team-wise, there was marked improvement this season.
“We’ve been around ninth for about the last three years, so my goal has been to be in the top five, and it’s good because we have got great opportunities next year with seven to eight returners,” head coach Marc Gilkerson said as his squad prepares for the University of Wyoming host rodeo, the Laramie River Rendezvous Rodeo, which is set for Friday-Sunday at the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching arena.
Sheridan has performed well this spring even through unfavorable practice conditions. Sheridan, unlike other schools in the region, is without an indoor facility to shelter them from the Wyoming spring snowstorms. But Gilkerson isn’t complaining.
“We bucked horses in the rain and the snow last night, and I think the kids had a lot of fun,” he said. “We don’t have a facility to practice in every day, but it is what it is.”
Individually, Sheridan has three freshman cowboys and a sophomore cowgirl who will be looking to either hold spots or move up into the top three in their respective events and into the CNFR, June 9-15 at the Casper Events Center.
Zeke Thurston (Hyannis, Neb.) led the saddle bronc riding all spring until a tough go in Casper two weeks ago dropped him to second place, still well-within qualifying as he’s 95 points ahead of the third place rider, Travis Nelson of GC.
“Zeke has got a good opportunity to do really well and seal up the bronc riding, if he draws well and things go right,” Gilkerson said.
Thurston holds 570 points, behind Central Wyoming College’s Colton Miller in first with 635.
Fellow freshman Taygen Schuelke (Newell, S.D.) has made the bull riding region title a foregone conclusion for a while now. He leads Neil Williams of Casper College by 105 points entering the weekend. Also, with a little luck, Schuelke could sneak up out of his fifth place bronc riding spot. He’s fifth in the all-around.
CJ Davidson (Worsley, Alberta, Canada) is third in the bull riding and currently a CNFR qualifier.
On the girls side, freshman Laine Hanson (Jamestown, N.D.) has made a late move to qualify in breakaway roping.
“Laine has a good chance,” Gilkerson said. “She’s been roping really tough in practice, and I think she’ll do fine. She just has to not get any nerves and go out there and rope.”
Hanson sits in fourth with 250 points, but her times in Casper narrowed Otero College roper Ali Bilkey’s third-place lead to just five points.
There is a chance for a shift atop the team standings, where host Wyoming could move into a CNFR team berth. Eastern Wyoming College overtook the team lead on the men’s side this spring, supplanting fall leader Wyoming who now sits in third behind Gillette College.
“It comes down to who gets to go to college finals, so it’s a big rodeo,” Gilkerson said. “There’s a lot of pressure. Second isn’t wrapped up and neither is first, so there could be a big change in the top three. Every individual event except bareback has the top three spots wrapped up, so there’s going to be some moving around.”
“We’re looking for a good rodeo this weekend,” he concluded. “I think we have a good chance of doing really well here.”