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Saturday Short John Bell,.jpg

Montana State Northern's John Bell gets the heels of his steer during team roping at the Montana State spring rodeo on Saturday. Bell and his header, Montana State's Jace Bishop, won the title with a 5.5 second run in the short go.

Jackie Jensen contributed photo

BOZEMAN — With the Montana State spring rodeo drawing to a close on Saturday, the PA announcer confirmed what was evident just by taking a look around Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

It was a sold out rodeo, the first-ever at Montana State, the announcer said.

But before that arena could fill up with bodies and belt buckles could be handed to the champions, Bobcats rodeo coach Andy Bolich and his team had to lay down the dirt.

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Troy Kirkpatrick Montana Western rodeo

Montana Western's Troy Kirkpatrick rides to a 65 score in bareback bronc riding Thursday at the Montana State rodeo.

That’s 270 dump truck loads of dirt, according to the student newspaper, The MSU Exponent. Where the Bobcats play their home basketball games, a rubber mat was put down and the rodeo team spent the week spreading out and preening the ground.

They had to install the fencing, chutes and gates too. That’s not to mention the livestock to be taken care of, classes to attend, and of course, practice for the biggest spring rodeo Big Sky Region teams will see until the College National Finals Rodeo in June.

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Saturday Short Darby Yeager.jpg

Montana Western's Darby Yeager competes in Saturday's short go round of breakaway roping at the Montana State spring rodeo.

Bolich  mentioned that the week of labor is worth it when visitors gush about the quality and importance of his home rodeo. But if getting launched off a bucking bull isn’t tiring enough, by the end of this past weekend, he and his squad are exhausted.

“The work crew is kind of my team. The field house has one or two guys, all the manual labor for the most part is us, so it’s a big week in that for the kids too other than competing,” he said. “They have the set up and the takedown and all that stuff, and try to practice around this work schedule.

“I know we’re always super excited to put it on and we’re always super happy when it’s over.”

The work Bolich and the Bobcats put in doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by some of their toughest competition from Dillon.

Tristan Hansen, a standout bareback bronc rider for Montana Western with experience at the professional level said MSU’s show is among the best preppers for those with national finals aspirations.

“This rodeo, in my head gets you ready for the CNFR,” he said Friday night. “They kind of try to make it seem like the CNFR. And just starting this one off with a bang, it just boosts your confidence for the rest of the season.”

Teammate and fellow bareback rider Cole Snider’s confidence after the weekend in Bozeman is through the roof, thanks to his performance on Thursday and Saturday nights.

The junior from Washington state had never won a college belt buckle before, but his short round score of 74 was enough to edge Hansen and get the spring season rolling on the right note, and emerging from a long cold, rodeo-less winter at Bozeman is the perfect start to the spring campaign.

“It’s an awesome venue and the town is great. Everybody always comes out and has a lot of great energy,” he said. “(Bolich) does a good job of making sure everything is running good. Everyone spends winter time thinking about rodeo and waiting. And it’s just an awesome venue to crack it back out again.”

Big Sky Region rodeo teams will have another four rodeos this spring to earn points toward a berth to the CNFR. Their point totals from the fall season roll over for the spring, and the top three in each event will vie for a national title in Casper, Wyoming in June.

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