Hundreds come out for the college rodeo finals
Posted: Tuesday June 19, 2007 12:24PM; Updated: Tuesday June 19, 2007 12:56PM
Some college sports require helmets and shoulder pads, others require a glove and a bat, but on Saturday night in Casper, Wyo., the outfit of choice was cowboy hats, vests and boots. It was all for the 59th annual College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR).
Saturday night's action culminated a weeklong competition for college cowboys and cowgirls. Representing the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA)'s 11 different regions, more than 350 student athletes made the trek to Casper, Wyo. They all had high hopes of earning national team and individual championship titles. Also at stake was more than $250,000 in scholarships from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Scholarship Awards Program.
College rodeo is comprised of nine different events, including bareback riding, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, goat tying, team roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. The top three contestants in each event from each region from the regular season qualify for the CNFR. In addition, the top two men's and women's teams from the 11 regions advance to the championship event.
In front of a record setting crowd, Kayla Nelson became part of an elite group of champions. The University of Wyoming senior won the National Goat Tying title for the second consecutive year and helped the Cowboys take home the women's team championship. She was a definite crowd favorite. As the announcer called her name, 5,000 fans went crazy and the cheers were deafening when she entered the arena. "I feed off of this energy," Nelson said. "As soon as they announce my name and I can hear everyone cheering, my heart is beating faster and then I just focus on the run."
Ranger College earned its own place in history. The junior college from Texas came into the finals hungry and dominated the men's team standings. The team members contribute their success to former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world champion saddle bronc rider. This year's Men's All-Around Champion, Steven Dent, is one of those members.
As the arena dust settled, the 2007 CNFR Champions were named. They are:
These champions are the next generation of the PRCA and many of them will someday be vying for the coveted gold buckles, the most prestigious awards in rodeo.