Both Trapper teams enter competition at the University of Montana on Friday in third place in the Big Sky Region standings. Both know the gap to move up to second place is insurmountable, leaving team members to largely focus on individual needs this weekend and taking care not to be overtaken by challengers coming up from behind.
For more than a few members of the Trapper team, this weekend will either make or break a spot at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, given to the top three finishers in each of the event standings, as well as to the top two competitors in each region’s all-around standings.
None of that should be a concern for Trapper steer wrestler Newt Novich. With 705.5 points on the season, Novich could quite literally get lost on his way to Missoula this weekend and still be assured of a spot in the College National Finals Rodeo. Along with Montana State’s Ty Erickson and Montana, Western’s Kody Lahaye, Novich, currently ranked ninth nationally despite the fact that all other regions in the country have competed in an extra rodeo, has dominated the event throughout the season. The trio has more than double the points of the fourth-place competitor, leaving the CNFR berths sewn up in the event.
For the other rodeo disciplines, that’s not the case. Trapper Colton Redmond currently sits in third position in tie down roping. He’s protecting a wafer-thin four-point advantage over his closest pursuer as he looks to hold tight to a CNFR berth in the event.
Redmond is also fourth in the men’s all-around standings where the top two season performers are assured of a place at the national championships. He’s also in the hunt in team roping, 60 points out in the header stats.
Heeling teammates Zachary Schweigert and Devon Mitchell have similar margins to make up if they wish to move into CNFR contention. Ethan Hecht is fourth in bull riding, needing to overcome a gap of 76 points on the season’s final weekend.
On the women’s side, Kaela Murphy is clinging tight to the No. 3 spot on the standings in barrel racing. She carries a 33-point edge over her nearest challenger. Kylee McDonnell is 62 points back in breakaway roping, currently in seventh place and is the only other Trapper with an outside shot at nudging into one of the top three positions in an event.
“Kaela needs to have a good weekend so she doesn’t get left at home,” said Trapper rodeo coach Del Nose. “She’s been leading the thing most of the year, but she’s had zero luck these last three rodeos. She needs to have a good ride this weekend. Ethan Hecht has a shot in the bull riding. He’s got to come riding, because if he doesn’t get any points he’s not going to make it.”
Last weekend at the University of Great Falls, both Northwest College teams placed third in the final team standings. The performance was enough to bump the Trapper men past Miles Community College and back into third place in the regional standings. The Trapper women have been in third place throughout the spring semester.
“We had it set up to where we should have won the rodeo after the long round, but we had some bad luck and some things that we aren’t able to control came up and cost us,” said Nose.
Colton Redmond was second in the men’s all-around while JayAnn Demarais was third in the women’s all-around standings.
Newt Novich turned in the only championship performance for the Trappers. Novich won the steer wrestling title while Redmond (third) and Dalyn Wingard (fifth) also finished among the top five in the standings.
Ethan Hecht had a good day with a third-place finish in the bareback. Redmond added a runner-up finish in tie down roping, finishing as part of a three-way tie for second place. Timothy Stevenson added a fourth-place finish in bull riding.
On the women’s side, Heather Knerr finished as the runner-up in barrel racing. Demarais was seventh in the event. Demarais also placed ninth in breakaway roping. Kylee McDonnell was eighth in goat tying.
The Trappers’ roping team of Kaela Murphy and Zackerie Hamel placed fifth overall.
“The kids are trying their darndest,” said Nose. “They’re working hard at it, getting their practice rounds in. We’re just trying to get them tweaked up and get their confidence and technique better than they’ve ever had. Hopefully what we do in our practicing rounds carries over to the competition.”