Casper College Rodeo Teams Target College National Final Rodeo | Casper College

Heading into the final two Central Rockies rodeos of the season, the Casper College men’s and women’s teams are both in contention for the top two spots. The Thunderbirds will look to make a late charge this weekend when they host the 66th Annual Ropin’ and Riggin’ Days Rodeo at The Arena on the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds.

The men’s team is currently second in the team standings with 4,705 points through eight rodeos. That puts the T-Birds well behind the University of Wyoming, which has won seven of eight rodeos and has 6,635 points, but comfortably ahead of third-placed Laramie County Community College with 3,080 points. The top two teams from each region, along with the top three from each event, advance to the College National Finals season-ending rodeo in June at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper.

“We’re a well-rounded team,” Casper College head coach Jhett Johnson said. “We have about four or five teams in the team finals every week, and our bronc riders and bareback riders do a lot of defense for us.”

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The T-Birds finished third at last year’s CNFR, Johnson’s sons Kellan and Carson winning the National Tag Team Championship. The duo did not compete in the first three rodeos of the CRMR season, but have won four of the five rodeos since then and have a dominating lead in the regional standings.

The Johnson brothers lead a strong contingent of team stringers for the T-Birds. Kellan is atop the headers standings with 790 points, with teammates Nevada Berquist third at 330 points, Kolby Bradley fourth at 325 and Jhett Alapai fifth at 295. At heel, Carson is first at 790, Braden Brost is second at 390 and Trae Smith third with 355.

Casper College also got strong production from timed cowboys Linkyn Petersek, who leads the tie-down rankings and top-10 in steer wrestling, and Smith and Brost in tie-down.

At the other end of the arena, Quinten Taylor is second in saddle bronc, Myles Carlson is third in bareback and Brodie Bates is fifth in bull riding. The T-Birds have six raw competitors who have scored at least 170 points in their respective events.

This point production extends to timed events with 16 different T-Birds scoring at least 110 points in the roping team.

With just six Cowboys on the points team each week, that obviously leaves Jhett Johnson with some tough decisions.

“Every week I’m like, ‘Gosh! I should wear this guy or that guy,'” he admitted. “Because most of these guys are good enough to make the team (in points). It’s kind of like horse racing, you just pick what you pick and go with it.

“But every one of those kids plays an important role. If a kid from Casper College wins it and makes the points team, that’s great. And if he wins it and he doesn’t isn’t, well, that means another school didn’t get those points.”

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The Casper College women’s team scored just 20 points and finished a disappointing seventh at the Eastern Wyoming College Rodeo two weeks ago. But the T-Birds rebounded last weekend by scoring a season-best 395 points and winning the Skyline Stampede in Fort Collins, Colorado.

That kept the T-Birds third in the season standings with 1,745 points. Defending regional champion Wyoming leads with 2,245 points and Gillette College is second with 1,995.

At the EWC Rodeo, Olivia Lay was the all-around champion after winning the ropes breakaway and teamed with Jhett Alapai to finish second in the team ropes. Makayla Seely placed third in barrel racing and Cassidy Espenscheid (breakaway) and Sidni Ferguson (barrel racing) also finished in the top five.

For the season, Kady Locke is third in barrel racing standings, Brylee Smith is fifth in barrels and eighth in breakaways, and Espenscheid is seventh in breakaways.

“It’s tough because it’s such a tough area,” Jhett Johnson said. “If you have a bad weekend like we had two weeks ago, you drop it. We are third but we can definitely close that gap, we just need the girls to stay strong.

“It’s easier to keep winning than to start winning, and last week we started winning.”

Follow sportswriter Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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