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The college rodeo season is gearing up for the spring session, and programs across the Big Sky Region are getting back on the saddle at the Montana State spring rodeo this weekend.

Rodeo No. 1 is Thursday through Saturday, while rodeo No. 2 is Sunday. Teams and competitors earn points toward the year-end standings to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo.

Montana State’s men’s and women’s teams lead the Big Sky standings entering the weekend. On the men’s side, Northwest College is in second, with Montana Western third and the University of Montana fourth.

For the women, Montana Western is in second, followed by Montana State-Northern and Northwest College.

“This is actually one of the (most fun) rodeos,” Montana Western senior Tristan Hansen said. “I’ve hit a lot of pro rodeo, and it’s one of the funnest rodeos I think. It’s a great environment, the community around there comes out and supports it to.”

Hansen currently sits in first place in bareback riding with 637.5 points. Jesse Nelson of Montana State is second at 612.5.

On the women’s side, Montana Western is well represented in goat tying, holding the 1-2-3-5 spots heading into the weekend.

Tess Turk leads with 582 points, followed by teammates Sierra Lyons and Marlee Mussmann. Montana State’s Shelby Rasmussen is fourth and Western’s Tori Lewis fifth.

Montana State’s women have a stronghold in breakaway roping, holding down the 1-2-3-4 spots with just 25 points separating Cierra Tredway and Rachel Kerr in first and second.

The Montana State men, meanwhile, hold the first three spots in tie-down roping and are 1-2 in steer wrestling.

Caleb McMillan of Northwest College leads the men all-around standings. The cowboy is fourth in tie-down roping and sixth in saddle bronc.

Beyond adding to point totals the weekend's events will provide something of a litmus test for teams as nationals approach. For Western coach Olie Else, she’s expects the Western women to reach the college finals, while the men’s team has slumped a bit — though she said she expects them to pick back up this spring.

“We should have a good spring,” she said. “With the kind of talent I have I’m pretty sure it will be a good season.”

It’s the final go for Else at the helm of the Western program, as she’ll be retiring after the College National Finals Rodeo.

That gives an extra level of motivation for her sides heading into the weekend.

“I think we have a really good team,” said Jacob Worthern, who competes in steer wrestling and roping events for Western. “In the fall some of us struggled, but I think especially with Olie retiring, we’re going to come out really strong for her last year and try to make her proud.”

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