SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College men’s rodeo team claimed its first regional title last season. The Generals, as an encore, won their second region championship this year. A program that has existed for more than half a century finally broke through and now stands as the flag bearer in the Central Rocky Mountain Region.
So why now?
Did everything — the coach, the cowboys, the luck — go Sheridan’s way?
To a certain extent, yes. But more so, a large portion of the Generals’ unprecedented success the last couple of years can be attributed to one cowboy — Chance Ames.
“Chance is one of them kids you get once in a lifetime,” Sheridan head coach Marc Gilkerson said.
It didn’t take Ames long to make an impression on his future college rodeo coach. And it wasn’t Ames’ stature or jaw-dropping ability that appealed to Gilkerson — at least initially.
“I met chance when he was a freshman in high school, and he was just a big raw-bone kid, kind of goofy acting. I liked him immediately,” Gilkerson said. “He was pretty laid back; he had a good sense of humor. I liked him. I could see he had some talent — he was riding bulls back then — too.”
Ames hails from Big Piney and instantly made an impact for the Generals. He placed second in the region in bareback riding as a freshman and planted the seeds for a fruitful sophomore campaign.
In a 2017-18 season that encompassed more than a few ups and downs for the Generals, Ames remained consistent and true. He started his fall season off in fine fashion with a win in front of the Sheridan fans.
Ames remained out in front of the region for the entire season and kept increasing his cushion over the rest of the field en route to a bareback championship. Ames stood as the only cowboy to score over 1,000 points — earning a total of 1,235 points, 340 points clear of the second-place finisher.
“It’s definitely a notch on my belt,” Ames said. “But it’s just a small hill on the way to the peak of the mountain, yet. It was a good little day or two of fame there, but now it’s putting my focus on the college finals and preparing for that.”
Ames will return to Casper for the College Nationals Finals Rodeo next week. He placed seventh last year with 286.5 points. It wasn’t the end result Ames wanted, but competing alongside the other cowboys as a freshman gave Ames confidence and validation that he could contend against the best riders in the country.
That fueled a scintillating sophomore season and set the goal of claiming a national championship as a sophomore.
“Winning a college finals will definitely be a pretty big hit on the way to the top,” Ames said.
Gilkerson believes Ames’ familiarity with the CNFR and his skill level will help him contend for a title this season.
“I think Chance has a potential to win the nation in the bareback riding,” Gilkerson said. “I think if he can draw the right horses, I think he’ll do great. He’s a big strong kid. He can ride about anything. He really uses his feet good and controls his upper body. If he draws right, look out.”
Another successful run at the CNFR could have a huge affect on Ames’ future in rodeo. Notoriety and reputation carry a lot of weight in the rodeo arena. If Ames can impress the judges down in Casper, once again, word could get out nationally about the standout General.
Ames has already told Gilkerson he’ll likely return to Sheridan in the fall, but if the CNFR and summer go how Ames hopes, those future plans may change.
“He’s fortunately coming back next year, and I’m tickled to have him back,” Gilkerson said. “He’s going to rodeo this summer some and he said, ‘If I’m doing really good, I’m probably not coming back.’ Hopefully, he does good.”
It’s a win-win for Gilkerson. If Ames likes his standing and performances this summer, he can turn professional for good — a boost to the SC resume — and if he wants to come back to college, Gilkerson brings back a regional champion.
Whether or not Ames elects to return to Sheridan, he has already done so much for the Generals’ program. He led the team in the arena with his bareback riding prowess and outside the arena with his leadership qualities.
But most importantly, Ames put Sheridan College on the rodeo map — not just regionally, but nationally as well.