Brock Winn rides in the finals in Casper, Wyo.
Brock Winn checks out the scoreboard after his ride.
UVU Saddelbronc Athlete Earns No. 2 Spot in the Nation in College Rodeo
As National College Rodeo Finals comes to a close at the Casper Events Center, Utah Valley University's Brock Winn rides a horse named Elvis into a No. 2 spot in the nation in rodeo's classic event, saddlebronc.
Winn broke out of the shoot to a roaring applause at the Casper Events Center. A crowd-favorite, Winn came into the short-go with a half-point advantage over his college cowboy competition.
Following six grueling days of preliminary competition, Winn, of Ferron, came down to a neck-and-neck contest against Jacobs Crawley of Texas A&M and Merritt Smith of University of Wyoming. At the tally, the weeklong run ended with Crawley in first place (304 in the aggregate), Winn in second saddle (302), and Smith, third (296).
Ben Carson of Lindon, scored the second-fastest time of the night in steer wrestling. The UVU business management major sealed the deal for the night with a No. 3 in the nation finish behind Kyle Irwin of Northwestern Oklahoma State University and first-place Jason Thomas of McNeese State University.
Utah Valley's Caleb Bennett of Morgan, suffered a disappointing senior send-off in bareback. Bennett is one of just two seniors competing in the final 108-contestant college national rodeo. And for his much anticipated final performance in the NCFR, Bennett suffered a failed flank strap just before the eight-second whistle blew to receive re-ride option.
Of his final ride, Bennett said, "Buck off or not, I'm going for it." And spurring for the highest point ride he could get, Bennett's horse offered up just a little more than he could hold onto. Picking himself up off the arena floor, Bennett received a thunderous applause from the record-setting-attendance Casper Events Center crowd for his last lightning-like college competition ride.
"Caleb got some great cracking out of the gate," said UVU Rodeo Coach Shane Draper. "Ben had a good, smooth run, and Brock got a great horse to showcase his talent. Each of these guys gave it an absolute 100 percent and I couldn't be more proud of each one of them."
This is Draper's third year as coach of the UVU Rodeo Team. Of Genola, he worked as an elementary school teacher at Brookside Elementary in Springville. Draper is a UVU graduate, former college rodeo champ and professional rodeo cowboy.
Draper has led a UVU team to the NCFR every year since joining UVU. "My goal is just to keep growing the program and be back here every year," he said.
"We've got some of the best athletes in the country and their top scores at this event prove that."
UVU rodeo cowboy Zach Heller was honored in Thursday night's performance rodeo with the "Nothing But Try" hardship scholarship. Heller, who participates in team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling at UVU, was tragically struck by a vehicle Jan. 13 after stopping on I-15 to help a woman whose car had been hit. Heller was driving home from rodeo practice at about 9:30 p.m. in icy-weather conditions and was not expected to survive the accident that left him with numerous injuries including three potentially fatal skull fractures and a broken upper-left rib.
Coach Shane Draper accepted Heller's award in his behalf as Heller was at the same time competing in his first rodeo in Morgan, since the accident occurred.
"His ability to endure is amazing," Draper said of Heller's return to college rodeo. "He's kept a positive attitude through it all and he's an inspiration to each of us."
Also noteworthy: Utah State University's Trevor Merrill and Garrett Thurston were named national champions in team roping for their first-place, lickety-split 5.8 second-performance. Their short-go time was the fastest in team-roping of the entirety of the week-long event.