BOZEMAN — The slush and snow on the roads outside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse didn’t paint a picture of spring, but inside the building it was clear: The second session of the college rodeo season is here.
Teams around the Big Sky Region are making Bozeman their home this weekend, and early performances from Montana Western cowboys and cowgirls have them set up sweetly for Saturday’s short go round.
Breakaway roping had five cowgirls take their turns before a score was recorded. The first score of the event was from Western’s Tess Turk in 3.1 seconds to sit in first place through one day of rodeo.
“It was hard to tell how the calves were going to run being the first performance of the rodeo,” she said. “But they were all pretty consistent. I knew that as long as I rode my horse hard out the corner I would have a good shot at him. I took the first shot I got and had success.”
The previous five rides were rife with penalties and missed shots. With an open leaderboard, Turk said it’s all about committing to the fundamentals to earn the first breakthrough.
”It tells me I need to be aggressive, and basically stick to the fundamentals,” she said. “Go out and know you’ve put the time in at practice and it’s going to pay off.”
Turk wasn’t alone in starring down the barrel of the first day and coming out on top for Western.
Western’s Cole Snider, the last cowboy to take his turn in bareback riding, came away with a smooth 74 score to top the standings through Day 1.
“My horse started out really well,” Snider said. “She took one jump back and kind of let me get reloaded, then I just took it to her.”
Snider, currently seventh in the Big Sky standings for bareback, escaped the first day on top, despite a 73 run from Montana State’s Jesse Nelson, who is currently second in the region standings.
Western’s Tristan Hansen is currently in first for the season.
“It’s monumental,” Snider said of his start. “To get out with a bang, get the ball rolling. You know all winter you just build up potential energy, then you start with a ride like that, it’s just kinetic.
“It really does carry on to the next day. Getting the ride, a guy can take a breath, relax, take a day and just come back, find his center. It’s a really cool feeling.”
Steer wrestling, breakaway and bull riding were all rife with no scores or times, but team roping and tiedown roping stole the show.
The Montana State-Montana Western duo of Carson King and Wyatt Griffith set a blistering 6.5 seconds in team roping, with Griffith catching their steer’s heels in the final ride of night.
In tiedown, each ride outshone the last, until Montana State’s Will Powell came through in a cool 9.7 seconds in the second-to-last go.
Though few scores were recorded in bull riding, Montana State’s Wylee Hurst and Northwest’s Caleb McMillian both notched 70 points. Hurst also scored a 45 in saddle bronc earlier in the night.
The top scores or times in each event between Thursday and Friday go on to Saturday’s short go. The rodeo kicks back up Friday morning with the slack round; the second performance begins at 7 p.m.