Back in the saddle | CraigDailyPress.com

Back in the saddle

MCHS rodeo team to compete in short fall season

John Vandelinder

Members of the Moffat County High School rodeo team. Front row from left: Gabby Miller, Jesse Moser, Hannah Hegwer, Taylor Vernon and Taanna Taylor. Back row from left: Troy Vernon, Eric Fleming and Matt Bohrer.

An old cowboy now has a new plan.

David Fleming took over the reigns of the Moffat County High School rodeo program this summer.

As a lifelong cowboy, his decision was a no-brainer, Fleming said.

Fleming participated in rodeo throughout high school and competed in college at Casper College in Wyoming, as well as the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

“I’ve been around rodeo most of my life,” Fleming said. “My daughter was in rodeo, and my son, Eric, is on the team. We’ve been heavily involved in Little Britches the past three to four years, so it was pretty much an easy decision for me.”

Fleming said he understands the difference between rodeo and the rest of MCHS sports, and he embraces it.

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“Rodeo is a different animal,” he said, “from the standpoint that it’s not part of (Colorado High School Activities Association). But, it’s a hard situation because it’s pretty much up to the kids to practice and to get to and from the different rodeos on their own. It’s pretty much an individualized sport, and so my hope is we can start looking at ways to do two things: to help the kids have a better chance to have some organized practices and function more together as a team. And I want to try to promote the sport more through the school.”

The high school rodeo season is split into two parts: the fall season and the spring season.

The upcoming fall season is shorter than that in the spring – MCHS will compete just four times.

But, unlike the spring season, the Bulldogs will host a rodeo this fall.

The fall season finale is Sept. 20 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

Points earned throughout the four rodeos are carried over into the spring season.

Although the other MCHS sports seasons culminate at the state level, MCHS cowboys and cowgirls – if they qualify – can head to the national finals at the end of the school year.

And qualifying for the nationals is a goal firmly planted in the front of Fleming’s mind.

“Going to state is kind of like going to the playoffs,” in other sports, Fleming said. “Our goal is to get our kids into the top four at the end of the year so we can go compete against the top kids from every other state in the country and Canada at the national high school finals.”

At a glance

Dates to circle

Aug. 30 – Moffat County visits Cortez in the first rodeo of the season.

Sept. 20 – MCHS hosts its lone home rodeo of both the fall and spring seasons. The event also wraps up the short, four-rodeo-long fall season.

Players to watch

Eric Fleming (senior) – Placed fifth in the high school state championships while competing in bareback.

Taylor Vernon (junior) – Placed ninth in senior boys bull riding at the 2008 state championships.

Troy Vernon (senior) – Finished ninth in senior girls barrel racing in the state championships.

Teams to watch

Colorado Lone Riders – The Lone Riders placed six cowboys in the top 10 of calf-roping in last seasons state finals and won five events outright.

El Paso County – El Paso finished with seven top-10 placers in 11 events at state.

Pueblo Outlaws – The Outlaws annually field one of the top teams in the state, and this year should be no different.

Team Information

League: Colorado State High School Rodeo Association (CSHSRA)

Coach: David Fleming

Fleming with the Bulldogs: first year

Returnees: 6