For a guy who did everything right on his first College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) saddle bronc ride, University of Wyoming senior Garrett Uptain still thinks he could have done better.
Even better than being the national leader?
Uptain, from Craig, Colo., rode Big Party to 79.5 points in the Sunday afternoon performance to claim the first go lead. Each student-athlete is guaranteed three performances during the week, and just the top 12 scores and times advance to Saturday’s short go.
Two UW men and three women competed in Sunday’s two sections of Broncs, Bulls and Breakaway. The remaining student-athletes will begin six days of action beginning Monday.
Uptain was all business on his horse that brought a roar from the partisan crowd at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. Perhaps it was because he’s been here before as a Sheridan College competitor in 2017, but Uptain treated his first CNFR ride this week like he was practicing back at UW’s Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Arena. He was the regional champion this past season.
After reaching the eight-second buzzer, Uptain cleanly dismounted his ride and landed boots first on the arena, standing up and immediately clapping his hands. He knew a good score was coming his way.
“I knew that horse was big and strong, and I felt I rode him pretty good. I was pretty excited,” a calm Uptain said as Coach Beau Clark offered him congratulations behind the bucking chutes. “But, I felt like I could have done a little bit more, but this was a good way to start off the week.”
Uptain said he was not nervous coming into his first ride, and his game plan remains the same from here on out.
“I just go in with the same attitude and treat it like any other rodeo and just take care of business,” he said. “I’ve already been here once before — it’s something that I’m used to, so there was no stage fright. I’ve been on a lot of practice horses when I was in school, so this feels just like another rodeo.”
Teammate Donny Proffit, from Kemmerer, had a solid first go in the bareback riding competition later Sunday afternoon. The sophomore, who is the national points leader in the event, had to adjust halfway through his ride when Valley Girl made a sudden turn, but he did manage 74.5 points to put him among the top 15.
“I got a little behind her; she kind of got me on my arm and yanked on me — it sat me up. I got to be a little bit quicker with my feet and get a hold better,” Proffit said. “I got one down, two more to go for the short round, so there’s a lot of time left.”
He is sitting 14th in the average.
For the UW women, both Faith Hoffman and Brandy Schaack competed in breakaway roping, and the pair had mixed results.
Hoffman made her first CNFR appearance run and didn’t disappoint when she stopped the clock with a 3.1-second effort to put her 12th in the early average.
“I just stuck to my plan. I got one down, got one roped, got the first one out of the way, and this is just the first part of the battle,” the Kiowa, Colo., senior said.
She was the first roper up on the day.
“I was a little nervous because I saw my draw and said, ‘Oh, man, it’s my first finals, it’s my first round, and I’m the first one up in the matinee,’” she said. “There is a little bit more noise here, but I thought, you know, you’ve done this before, it’s a calf, it’s a box, it’s all the same, just go out there and rope your calf.”
Schaack entered her final CNFR with high expectations, but those were quickly erased in a matter of seconds.
Schaack, a senior from Hyannis, Neb., missed on her first head when the rope slid over the top of the calf’s head for a no-time. Schaack entered the CNFR as the regional breakaway roping champion and had the second-most overall points among all national ropers.
Hailey Hardeman, from Wilson, had a successful 3.5-second run in her first CNFR appearance for the Cowgirls. However, her points won’t count in the team’s overall production. She is not among the four-member UW women’s team but did qualify for the CNFR by finishing third in the region.