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June 14, 2011 7:27 am

Vezain, Asay start strong at CNFR

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NWC’s Gill takes no score on opening night in Casper

The 2011 College National Finals Rodeo opened Sunday night in Casper. For local products Kaleb Asay and J.R. Vezain, the night held good news. For Northwest College’s lone representative, the opening night wasn’t nearly as rosy.

Bareback rider Jordan Gill, the only NWC rider to earn a spot in college rodeo’s pinnacle event this season, failed to cover the eight seconds needed to earn a score. He was one of a scant number of riders who failed to take a score in round 1 and will need to turn in two solid rides in order to have any shot at advancing to this weekend’s final round.

Gill will take both his second and third-round rides today (Tuesday). Under the CNFR’s staggered schedule it is possible for competitors to have their second and third-round draws on the same night in certain events.

At the opposite end of the spectrum sits Vezain. The former high school national champion from Cowley currently competes with Powell native Kaleb Asay for Vernon College in Texas. Vezain turned in a ride of 80.5 points in the first round of bareback competition on Sunday and leads the field at the end of round one.

Vezain currently sits 15th in the PRCA’s world bareback rankings with more than $18,000 in earnings. He has more than twice the money as his next-closest pursuer in the rookie of the year standings.

Vezain is also competing in the saddle bronc at this year’s CNFR as Vernon College eyes a possible repeat men’s national title. That event didn’t start as well for the Cowley cowboy as Vezain took a no score for his first ride.

Vernon College teammate Kaleb Asay picked up the slack for Vezain in the event, however. The 2010 co-national champion rider stayed aboard his mount to turn in a 75.5-point ride in Sunday’s opening round, good enough to leave him in seventh place at the conclusion of round one.

Asay was scheduled to take his second ride on Monday. He will wrap up his preliminary performances during Thursday’s session.

The 2011 CNFR runs through Saturday.

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