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April 04, 2013 8:14 am

Rodeo season resumes for Northwest Trappers

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Spring semester opens at Montana State

College rodeo season resumes after an extended winter break as the Northwest College Trappers return to the arena this weekend at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., for a pair of events. For teams in the hunt for a qualification spot to the College National Finals Rodeo, this could be a make-or-break weekend.

Currently, both Trapper teams sit in third place in the Big Sky Region standings. The top two teams at season’s end earn the right to advance to the CNFR in Casper in June.

For the Northwest College women, who earned their first team CNFR berth in program history last spring, there’s work to be done. The Trapper women currently sit in third place out of nine teams in the regional standings. Montana State University leads the region with 1,623.5 points. Montana Western is currently second with 1,391.75 points. The Trappers are slightly more than 400 points back with 979 points.

The Trapper men’s team is also in third place among the eight schools in the standings from the fall half of rodeo season. Montana State University again leads the region as the Bobcat men amassed 2,858.5 points through the first five rodeos of the season. Montana Western is second with 2,143.5 points. The Trappers follow by a gap of 346 points with a team score of 1,797.5.

While both margins are significant, with five performances left this season they certainly are not insurmountable.

For several Trapper cowboys and cowgirls, the spring semester also begins with them looking to defend or improve their position in the Big Sky Region event standings. The top three riders, ropers and wrestlers at the end of the year automatically qualify for the CNFR.

Currently, four Trappers are in that position.

Bull rider Ethan Hecht ended his spring tied for second in the region in the event with 145 points. That’s not even half the total amassed by Luke Gee, the region’s frontrunner at the midway point, but does give Hecht an edge over a tightly bunched field that’s chasing after him, including Trappers Maverick Bushnell and Devon Mitchell, both tied for sixth in the region and just 45 points behind Hecht in the standings.

Hecht also sits in seventh place in the region’s bareback standings with 243 points, but has a gap of 158 to close to work his way into the top three in that event.

Newt Novich currently sits second in the standings for the Trappers in steer wrestling. Novich tallied 435.5 points through the first five rodeos of the year. Novich is just 32 points in back of the leader and begins the spring in excellent position for a CNFR berth with a 150-point cushion on the current CNFR cut line for the event.

Things aren’t nearly as comfortable for tie-down roper Colton Redmond, who is third in the regional standings with 340 points. Fourth place, Montana State’s Andrew Olson, is breathing down his neck just two points behind. It’s also just 34 points forward for Redmond to climb into second place in the regional standings in a race that looks as though it could last throughout the spring.

Redmond is also trying to climb into the top three in team roping with Trapper teammate Devon Mitchell. The pair posted first-semester scores of 197 points through the first five rodeos of the year, leaving them with a 54-point gap to close in the final five events of the 2012-2013 calendar.

On the women’s side, Kaela Murphy is riding tall atop the Big Sky Region barrel race standings. Murphy threw together a 616-point spring semester and leads the field by 162 points overall.

All of those event standings could undergo a shakeup by Sunday night. That’s because Montana State University has thrown together two events on one weekend on the rodeo calendar. Competitors begin action today (Thursday) for the first rodeo, which lasts until Saturday. On Sunday, a second rodeo takes place, meaning two of the five spring-semester rodeos on the Big Sky calendar are being held this weekend.

A pair of good performances can see teams climbing up the standings and competitors positioning themselves for the stretch run in May. An off weekend, on the other hand, can squash many a dream.

The Trappers have three weeks off after they return from Bozeman. The next spring rodeo takes place on April 26-28 at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont. The season wraps up with May rodeos in Great Falls, Mont., and at Missoula, Mont.

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