Hawk Rodeo - CNFR Finals

CASPER, Wyo. -- For a pair of Howard College rodeo competitors, a penalty free week evaporated in the blink of an eye.

Freshman barrel racer Kaci Smith entered the short go-round of the College National Finals Rodeo in first place Saturday night and sophomore team roper Cullen Teller was second in his event, but the cards didn’t fall their way on the final night.

“Anything can happen in the short go and tonight it did,” Hawks coach Greg Kernick said after the dust had settled at the Casper Events Center.

Smith held a 0.09-second lead in the barrel racing after an outstanding first three rounds. She was last to go and knew she needed to turn in a time of 14.42 seconds or faster to bring home a national championship.

But, for the first time this week, Smith and her horse, Rebel, encountered trouble, knocking over the second barrel. The five-second penalty left her with a mark of 19.21 seconds, dropping her to 11th in the country as Sam Houston State’s Elizabeth Combs took home the saddle.

“I would have never guessed they would hit a barrel,” Kernick said.

He couldn’t have predicted what happened in the team roping, either.

Teller, roping with Tarleton State’s Brody Self, entered the final round 3.5 seconds off the pace, but needed just a 13.1-second run to take the lead in the average.

But Self couldn’t rope the horns and Teller never got a chance to tackle the heels.

“I feel like I’ve got the best heeler in the country,” Kernick said.

Adding to the frustration, the nation’s leading duo missed their steer as well, meaning Teller would have been in prime shape to win.

Instead, Utah State’s Trevor Merrill and Garrett Thurston won with a time of 37.8 seconds on four runs.

The CNFR marked the conclusion to the college rodeo season.

by Eric Schmoldt

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