They might not be going to nationals, but members of the Mid-Plains Community College Rodeo Team still managed to make their fans proud this year.
Under normal circumstances, the team would be gearing up for a send-off celebration before heading to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. in June. Now that nationals is cancelled because of the pandemic, MPCC’s cowboys and cowgirls are left with only their memories and thoughts of what might have been.
“It’s a real shame they can’t compete in Casper,” said Garrett Nokes, MPCC Rodeo Team coach. “I was really excited about this team, and I think they were ready. I think we would have finished better than how we were sitting when the season ended.”
The team only competed half a season as a result of COVID-19. In addition to the CNFR, all spring rodeos were cancelled out of concern of public safety.
Final standings for the Great Plains Region, which MPCC competes in, were based on the results after the North Dakota State University rodeo in November.
Those showed seven members of the MPCC Rodeo Team would have qualified for nationals: One of them was Danielle Wray, of Ord, who was the back-to-back regional champion in the team roping header category.
“At first, I was really upset about us not getting to go to nationals,” Wray said. “But, for everyone’s safety, it was the best choice the association could have made. People come from all over the country to attend that competition.”
Her teammates Wynn Schaack, of Wall, S.D., JD Draper, of Oakley, Kan. and Austin Madison, of Whiting, Iowa, would have been three of them. They all would have qualified in the steer wrestling.
Koby Jacobson, of Hershey, would have had enough points to represent MPCC in the bull riding, and twins Wyatt and Chance Williams would have both gone in the team roping.
“The one I feel really bad for in all of this is Chance,” Nokes said. “Last year, we could only take six and Wyatt and Chance tied for sixth. The way the rules read, I had to pick one of them, and I chose Wyatt. That was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach.”
Schaack will have another shot at nationals next year because he was the only freshman out of the group. All of the other qualifiers competed at nationals in 2019.
“Danielle will still get a regional title saddle, so that’s one positive,” Nokes said. “Another is that the team improved as a whole. Wyatt and Chance got so comfortable roping together that I could see them doing real well at nationals on a four-head average. JD and Austin have only continued to build on the experience they got last year at nationals, and Koby is a stronger competitor than he was last year at this time. He was really practicing and working hard over the winter. With Wynn, especially coming off The American, I expect big things in the future.”
The men’s team ended the season second in the region with about 3,035 points. The women’s team was third in the region with 848 total points.
Schaack finished fourth in the men’s all-around standings, and Wray was fifth in the women’s all-around standings. In addition to being the top team roping header in the region, Wray also ranked fourth in the breakaway roping.
“After my freshman year, I decided the only person who could make me better at what I do is myself, so I put in a lot of practice time,” said Wray. “That being said, Garrett also brought in a lot of high-quality athletes to the team. Men and women – we all set each other off. The event I compete in is primarily dominated by men, so it was really awesome to have guys that rope at a higher level than I do to practice with on a daily basis.”
Some of those teammates joined her on the team roping header leaderboard. Wyatt was third, Schaack was fifth, Jacobson was sixth and Caitlyn Comfort, of Elwood, was 15th. Comfort also came in 15th in the breakaway roping.
Chance was the second highest point earner in the team roping heeling followed by Marshall Still, of Oconto, in fifth and Weston Kunkee, of Lexington, 15th.
Jacobson took third in the bull riding, and Teran Sharman, of Palmer, was fourth.
Trenton Solida, of Glade, Kan., Schaack, Sterling Lee, of Rhame, N.D. and Draper were seventh, eighth, 10th and 13th respectively in the tie-down roping.
In the steer wrestling, Schaack finished second in the region. Draper was fourth, Madison was fifth and Still ended up 15th.