The Moffat County High School rodeo team opens the spring season today in the Cortez High School Rodeo in Cortez. Head coach Janice Edwards said the Bulldogs have great numbers this season and many athletes should make a push for the National High School Rodeo in July.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

The Moffat County High School rodeo team opens the spring season today in the Cortez High School Rodeo in Cortez. Head coach Janice Edwards said the Bulldogs have great numbers this season and many athletes should make a push for the National High School Rodeo in July.

MCHS rodeo team opens season today in Cortez

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The 2012 Moffat County High School rodeo schedule:

(Date — place — event)

• March 31 — away — Cortez High School Rodeo

• April 1 — away — Cortez High School Rodeo

• April 7 — away — Golden High School Rodeo

• April 8 — away — Golden High School Rodeo

• April 21 — away — Pueblo High School Rodeo

• April 22 — away — Pueblo High School Rodeo

• April 27 — away — Henderson High School Rodeo

• April 28 — away — Henderson High School Rodeo

• April 29 — away — Henderson High School Rodeo

• May 4 — away — Eagle High School Rodeo

• May 5 — away — Eagle High School Rodeo

• May 6 — away — Eagle High School Rodeo

• May 12 — away — Pagosa Springs High School Rodeo

• May 13 — away — Pagosa Springs High School Rodeo

• May 18 — away — Lamar High School Rodeo

• May 19 — away — Lamar High School Rodeo

• May 20 — away — Lamar High School Rodeo

• May 27 — away — Monte Vista High School Rodeo

• May 28 — away — Monte Vista High School Rodeo

• June 6 — away — Colorado High School State Finals @ Lamar

• June 7 — away — Colorado High School State Finals @ Lamar

• June 8 — away — Colorado High School State Finals @ Lamar

• June 9 — away — Colorado High School State Finals @ Lamar

• June 10 — away — Colorado High School State Finals @ Lamar

MCHS rodeo team at a glance:

Coach:

• Janice Edwards

Senior:

• Ian Duzik

By the numbers:

1: Wyatt Uptain is the only returning rodeo athlete who qualified for the National High School Rodeo last year in Gillette, Wyo.

5: The rodeo team returns five athletes from last year’s team, including four who competed at state. The team also welcomes four newcomers to the high school team.

7: After hosting the Colorado High School State Finals in Craig the past two years, the rodeo team will have to travel about 7 hours to compete this year in Lamar.

The Moffat County High School rodeo team has often struggled with a lack of numbers.

As one of the rare teams in northwest Colorado, MCHS usually has around five athletes on the team.

This spring, however, head coach Janice Edwards said numbers are actually a strength for her squad.

The Bulldogs have nine athletes, including five returning stars and four athletes new to the high school team.

“We are a really deep team and we have kids who can excel at a lot of things,” Edwards said. “We try to take the strengths of the kids and then use them to teach everyone else so we are all around a better team. Anyone on the team could make nationals and we have about six right now who are sitting in a good spot.”

Four of the five returning athletes competed in the Colorado High School State Finals last season in Craig — Garrett Buckley, Ian Duzik, Taylor Duzik and Wyatt Uptain.

Casey Barnes suffered an injury earlier in the season, but Edwards said she expects him to bounce back this year.

New to the Bulldogs this season are Taylor Bangs, Bow Richardson, Hunter Richardson and Denton Taylor.

Uptain was the only MCHS athlete to qualify for the National High School Rodeo last season, finishing second in the state in the saddle bronc riding.

And while the state finals will be moving from Craig this year to Lamar, Edwards said the deep team gives the Bulldogs a shot at taking home a team trophy.

“With the state finals in Lamar, we may not have as many kids go, because only those in position to go to nationals will probably compete,” she said. “But we have a good team and this year they are doing a team trophy and with all the kids making a push for nationals, I think we could win it.”

Coming out of the fall season, Uptain and Buckley are sitting first and second, respectively, in saddle bronc riding while Uptain and Taylor are first in dally team roping.

Edwards said most of the athletes continued to train during the winter months, which is crucial to have success in the spring.

“We went to some smaller rodeos, but it was really up to the kids if they wanted to practice, because it wasn’t required, and most of them did,” she said. “If they took a long time off, it would take longer to get themselves and their horses back in shape and they don’t want to lose that.”

In most other high school sports, coaching can make or break a team.

However, Edwards said for rodeo athletes, much of the work falls on them and it is her job to help with getting mentally prepared.

“The mental aspect is a big part of rodeo,” she said. “We practice together as a team about two times a week but they have to get themselves physically prepared, but I and other parents help the kids with stuff like having the right timing coming out of the box.”

The Bulldogs open the spring season today at the Cortez High School Rodeo in Cortez, which continues Sunday.

Edwards said all the preparation each athlete made in the offseason will pay dividends in the coming months.

“Everyone has been helping each other, from getting familiar to events to the older kids helping the newer ones,” she said. “I have no doubt a lot of these kids will be fighting for a spot at nationals because we have a lot of talent on this team.”

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