Beau Clark, a former All-Big Sky Conference football player for Montana State University, knows the grind of two-a-day practices and competing against the same teammates all week. And when the regular season begins, it’s actually somewhat of a relief to compete against an opposing team.

That’s the analogy he makes as he prepares his University of Wyoming teams for competition in the Central Rocky Mountain Region’s spring rodeo season. The Cowboys and Cowgirls — who have been grinding it out in daily practices and weekend jackpot rodeos since early January — are finally back in action Friday through Sunday at the Gillette College rodeo.

“They’ve been going steady and working hard since January, and it’s nice to finally just go to one town and compete,” said Clark, who is in his first year coaching at UW. “My big push, as a coach, is to make sure they just go out and get better each week. I really believe that once the season actually starts, it’s less stressful than what they’ve been going through since January.”

And both teams have targets on their backs coming into the two-month spring schedule. The Cowboys closed out the fall portion of the CRMR season as the region’s top club, while the Cowgirls were just as steady and are in second place.

“Watching these kids come into the season, I knew that there would be some talent and that they could compete at a high level,” Clark said.

From the opening fall rodeo in September, the UW men have been the region’s top club and maintained that lead through five rodeos. They accumulated 2,050 points with a team that has scored most of its points in timed events. Chadron State College is second in the standings coming into the season’s five final competitions with 1,755 points, while Central Wyoming College is third after collecting 1,660 points.

The Cowgirls, on the other hand, had the team lead before Eastern Wyoming College made a charge during the final fall rodeo. The Lancers have a total of 1,348.33 team points to hold a slim 63-point lead over the UW women. Perennial CRMR power Gillette College has the No. 3 position with 1,200 points.

UW’s ropers are setting the pace for the Pokes, with a pair of teams holding down the top two positions in the event.

Freshman Caden Camp, of Belgrade, Montana, and returning UW veteran senior JC Flake, from Mesa, Arizona, and a former national high school champion, lead the CRMR team-roping competition. Teammate Denton Shaw, a Lusk senior, and partner Cooper White, from Gillette College, are the region’s No. 2 team.

Kade Greer, a Gillette senior, is the CRMR’s leading steer wrestler. Junior Jace Staudt, from Nathrop, Colorado, is ranked second in tie-down roping, and the sixth Cowboy on the men’s points team, Seth Peterson, a junior from Minot, North Dakota, is fourth in the same event. He also is eighth in steer wrestling.

The Cowgirls have a pair of teammates leading their respective CRMR events.

Sophomore Rachel Calvo, from Bassett, Nebraska, leads the women’s barrel racing competition, while transfer student Teisha Coffield, the reigning CRMR breakaway roping champion, is the top roper. She competed last year for the University of Colorado-Pueblo and is from Yuma, Colo.

Also on the women’s four-member points team are Cheyenne junior Justene Hirsig, who is among the top 15 breakaway and team ropers, and Kelsey Lensegrav, an Interior, South Dakota, sophomore, who enters the fall season among the top 10 competitors in goat tying. She also is 11th in barrel racing.

All four Cowgirls bring in College National Finals Rodeo experience.

Going into the final leg before the CNFR, Clark said the teams’ continued success will depend on how well the teams execute each week.

“The mindset that I have is how much they get better from the fall to the spring,” he said. “But we can only control the things that we, as a team, can control. We have no injuries coming into the spring season, and it’s the healthiest we’ve been all year.”

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