High school ropers find success despite challenges

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Junior Austin Schell did more than rope a calf Sunday in Golden, he rounded up the first top-10 finish for a Moffat County High School cowboy in the spring season.

The junior roper and his partner, Hansen Vaughn, of Parshall, rode their way to sixth place in team roping and broke the one rodeo drought for Moffat County's cowboys.

The first rodeo of the season, March 30-31 in Cortez, was an exclusively cowgirls-only affair, with four cowgirls placing eight times and the cowboys riding off with nothing.

"It's hard for many of our cowboys to get the practice they need because either we don't have the safety equipment or the stock to practice with," coach Danette Webber said. "Although some of our ropers did get to practice with the local roping club."

Schell has one particular obstacle to clear in fine tuning his rope throwing; his partner lives in the town of Parshall, which is just outside Kremmling. The distance makes it all but impossible to practice on a regular basis and leaves little opportunity for the roper to gain a rhythm for competition, Webber said.

"Not only do most of our team ropers' partners come from different towns, they don't always have the same partner," she said. "It's extremely hard to jump into competition with someone you haven't practiced with."

The rodeo team also placed three cowgirls in four events in the two days of rodeo. Once again sophomore Kelly White and freshman Tia Brannan are at the top of the MCHS rodeo honor roll. White placed second in barrel racing Saturday and second in pole racing on Sunday, while Brannan grabbed a third in Saturday's section of barrels and a second in goat tying.

The two usual placers were joined by two new cowgirls at Golden with junior Chelsea Schnackenberg placing eighth in Saturday's poles and sophomore Jan McIntryre finishing ninth in poles. Webber was not only impressed with the amount of places the MCHS team took on the Front Range but with the amount of athletes who showed up for the rodeo.

"We had 17 kids travel to Golden, which is only two down from last week," she said. "It's a good sign these kids are dedicated to the program and want to compete."

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