Chance Ames had less than two months to mentally prepare for his first ever College National Finals. But the young Sheridan College General was wise beyond his years and had already proven he was tough as nails — and that might be putting it lightly.

Ames closed out the month of April 2017 on top, bucking his way to an 82-point ride in his final ride of the regular season. It earned the bareback rider a win at the University of Wyoming rodeo, a second-place spot in the regional standings — behind teammate Hunter Carlson — and a trip to the CNFR.

It also earned the Sheridan College men’s rodeo team its first regional title in school history.

Not a bad weekend — typically.

For Ames, though, the toughness was more than a belt buckle or extended season. You see, just days before Ames bucked his way to an impressive 82-point ride, his father, Tom Ames, died.

Now, just more than a year later, with Chance less than a week removed from his second trip to the CNFR, Tom would certainly be proud of his son’s college career.

Ames finished ninth in bareback riding at the CNFR last week in Casper with rides of 77, 76 and 68 to go with a 74-point performance in the short go.

But the weekend’s top-10 finish was just the culmination to a whirlwind year for Ames, one that rarely saw the young cowboy slip from his perch near the top of the college rodeo mountain.

After his winning round to cap the 2017 season, Ames, who said, “I could feel (my father) here with me,” opened his freshman CNFR campaign with a 77-point ride.

“It’s a part of life,” Ames told the Wrangler Network. “Just keep moving forward.”

Ames moved forward with a full head of steam.

He scored rounds of 61 and 70 before a huge 78.5-point ride in the short go, totaling 286.5 points and a seventh-place finish. That was a jumpstart to a nearly perfect sophomore season.

Ames came back and took fifth in his first rodeo of the 2017-18 season. That would be his worst finish of the year. A week later he won the home Sheridan College Rodeo with 175 points. He went on to win four bareback titles this past season — out of 10 — including three of the last four. He was the only bareback rider in the Central Rocky Mountain Region to score points at all 10 rodeos.

He capped off the regular season with another 175-point weekend at the University of Wyoming Rodeo, an event that appears to be his favorite. That solidified Ames as the top bareback rider in the region and helped his team win its second consecutive team title.

All the titles and accolades earned Ames The Sheridan Press Spring Male Athlete of the Year award before he went on to snatch another top-10 finish at the CNFR.

He’s still debating whether or not he’ll return for another season at SC — he might turn professional if the summer goes his way; I’d expect it to.

And to top it all off, Ames took home the Walt Garrison Award — and a $2,500 scholarship — at the CNFR. The award is given to a cowboy or cowgirl who embodies loyalty, honesty, integrity, commitment and perseverance.

If you’ve read this column up to this point, it’s obvious Ames embodies all of those traits. It’s obvious why his coach, Marc Gilkerson, called him a “once in a lifetime cowboy.” It’s obvious why he’s won a boatload of rodeos and is well on his way to winning a boatload more.

Looking for an example of what it means to be “cowboy tough”? Look no further than this Sheridan College bareback champion.