With the regular season wrapped up and those points tallied, the South Dakota State rodeo team is sending nine student-athletes to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, June 10-16.
“I truly believe we have a chance to pull points in all of the events we have qualified in. It should be fun,” said Rodeo Coach Ron Skovly.
The top three student-athletes in each event, along with the top two men’s and women’s teams from each region, qualify for the CNFR. In addition to the men’s and women’s team earning spots in the Great Plains Region, SDSU had three individual event qualifiers.
Placing second in the saddle bronc riding, Reed Arneson—a sophomore agricultural business major from Meadow—was the lone individual qualifier for the men’s team. Senior mechanical engineering major Gannon Gustafson, Hanley Falls, Minnesota; senior agronomy major Sterling Gehrke, Castlewood; junior agricultural systems technology major Brody Jones, Midland; and junior agricultural business major Cameron Fanning, Olivet; make up the rest of the team, which won the Great Plains Region.
Gustafson, who appeared at the 2016 CNFR as a heeler in team roping, will compete in tie-down roping and heel in team roping. Gehrke, team roping; Jones, tie-down roping; and Fanning, steer wrestling; will compete at CNFR for the first time.
The women’s team, which finished as the reserve region champion, is led by regional champions Jacey Hupp and Madison Rau.
Hupp, a junior agricultural education, communication and leadership major from Huron, will make her third-straight CNFR appearance. The regional goat tying and reserve all-around champion, she also qualified in team roping. She finished third in goat tying at the 2016 CNFR.
Making her second consecutive trip to nationals, Rau was the region’s barrel racing champion. A sophomore agricultural business major from Mobridge, Rau missed the final short-go performance by just a few positions at the 2017 CNFR, placing 14th.
First-time qualifiers Kaitlin Reece and Tori Jacobs will compete in breakaway roping and goat tying, respectively. Reece, a graduate student in the athletic training program, is from Valentine, Nebraska, and Jacob is a freshman interior design major from Madrid, Iowa.
“I am very proud and excited for the team we have qualified this year. With CNFR experience coming from Jacey, Madison and Gannon, the other qualifiers will have a lot of help adjusting to the CNFR atmosphere, which is like no other rodeo,” said Skovly.
About the CNFR
The CNFR is where the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association crowns individual event and team champions. It hosts over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities and colleges. For the past 20 years, they’ve competed at the 9,700-capacity seating Casper Events Center. Coverage of the performances will air on ESPNU in June.