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SHERIDAN — To say that the College National Finals Rodeo went well for Sheridan College would be an understatement. Head coach Marc Gilkerson described the week as, “awesome.”
Two riders from Sheridan College made the trip to Casper last week to represent Sheridan College and compete in the rodeo. They finished fourth in the team standings.
Taygen Schuelke’s successful week began in saddle-bronc riding, where he finished in third place with a 296 average and 230 points.
Just ahead of Schuelke in the final standings was teammate Zeke Thurston, who earned 275 points for his second place finish. Thurston’s 310.5-point average was only a half a point behind winner CoBurn Bradshaw of Western Texas College.
“There were about 40 kids in each event,” Gilkerson said. “To have both your guys finish at the top of that list is really a testament to the region and how hard they worked this season.”
Schuelke continued his big week by finishing fourth in bull riding. Schuelke’s average of 240.5 was only one point behind the third place finisher, Montana State University’s Nevada Newman.
Joe Frost of Panhandle State University finished first in the event and was the only cowboy to finish the competition without a no-score.
“It was a tough competition, but these guys are used to being competitive,” Gilkerson said. “I knew they had the talent, but it was just a matter of execution. I wasn’t too surprised, but I was tickled to death because they were really outstanding.”
Schuelke’s two top-five finishes gave him 415 total points, enough to put him atop the Men’s All-Around leaderboard.
“Sheridan College has only had four national champions, the last one coming nearly 20 years ago,” Gilkerson said. “For Schuelke to be champion in the all-around, the top of the top, that’s special.”
Gilkerson, who competed in the CNFR in 1994, said he didn’t need to give his two riders much motivation during the week.
“These guys don’t take a lot of coaching,” Gilkerson said. “I told them to do what got them here. These are good kids. To them it was just another rodeo.”
“It was nerve-racking for me,” Gilkerson added. “I had to tell myself to take it one ride at a time, and that’s what they did, too. That calmed them down, which is why they did so well, which calmed me down.”
The two-man team of Schuelke and Thurston scored 690 points for Sheridan College, which put them in fourth place and 65 points behind team winner University of Tennessee-Martin.
“To finish fourth in the nation with only two guys is outstanding,” Gilkerson said of his team’s finish. “This was a team with two guys competing against six-man teams. Again, I wasn’t too surprised, but I was tickled to death at how they handled everything.
“They had to talk to the press everyday,” Gilkerson added. “They just went out there and really represented themselves and their school. It was impressive.”
Along with Sheridan College’s two athletes, Sheridan resident Devan Reilly had a solid week competing in bareback riding for Gillette College. Reilly’s 300.5 average place him sixth and was only one point behind the fifth-place finisher.
“These guys really represented their city well,” Gilkerson said. “The community has given a lot of support, especially with some scholarships, so it’s great that these kids can prove that their investments are worth it. They’re helping these kids grow and earn an education.
“Both of our riders are entered in the WYO Rodeo,” Gilkerson added. “Having successful local riders attracts more people, which ends up helping the community.”
Along with the WYO Rodeo, both riders will continue their careers professionally. Schuelke is already competing for Rookie of the Year this year, and Thurston is filing for his professional card in the fall.
“The CNFR is a great springboard for these guys as they go pro,” Gilkerson said. “Now they’re just going to hit the road and keep on riding. It’s awesome.”