T-Birds headed to fifth CNFR in seven years

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper College men’s rodeo team is returning to the College National Finals Rodeo for the fifth time in seven years.

The team will participate in the June 9-15 CNFR at the Casper Events Center, according to the college.

In order to reach the CNFR, the team had to overcome a rocky start last fall.

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“At the start of the spring season, the T-Birds stood at seventh place in the region following a dismal fall season that saw them scoreless after the first rodeo, and then ninth and sixth twice,” a Casper College article explains. “The one shining moment came at Lamar Community College’s rodeo in early October when the team took first.”

But their fortunes turned around over the spring and the Thunderbirds finished in second place in the Central Rocky Mountain Region. That result was thanks in part to taking first place in Laramie at the final college rodeo of the spring season, according to the college.

“[T]hey took first place beating out second place Laramie County Community College by 76.67 points,” states the CC story. “Going into the Laramie River Rendezvous, the T-Birds stood fifth in the region.”

“‘This was a tremendous win for the team,’ said Jhett Johnson, head coach.”

Four of the men’s rodeo team members are transfers from Sheridan College, which the CC article says helped the team turn their season around. Those members are Ian McGivney of Kaycee, Cole Reiner of Buffalo, Lane Schuelke of Newell, South Dakota and K’s Thompson from Okatoks, Alberta.

The team’s assistant coach Sandy Bob Forbes is a former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bronc rider and his joining the T-Birds played a role in attracting the Sheridan College talent, Casper College said.

“Casper is known as a roping school (thanks to [head coach] Johnson, who won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championship in 2011 as a heeler), but with the addition of Forbes, a former PRCA bronc rider, the word is also getting out that Casper has a roughstock program as well,” the article explains.

The addition of the transfer athletes helped the rodeo team score more points in the first three spring rodeos than the team did in all five of the fall events, Casper College’s story continues.

“This year’s CNFR men’s team includes Schuelke and Garrett Buckley, Craig, Colorado, in saddle bronc; Jerron Johnson, Casper, Wheaton Williams, Sheridan, Wyoming, and Cash Hetzel, Lemmon, South Dakota, in team roping; and Reiner in bareback,” the article adds. “CC Rodeo team member Makayla Seely, Riverton, Wyoming, will also be representing Casper at the CNFR in barrel racing.”

Only the top two schools in each of the 11 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association regions advance to the CNFR. Casper College added that the top three individual scorers in each rodeo also qualify to represent their schools.