Moffat County rodeo wins state titles in bronc riding, tie down roping | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County rodeo wins state titles in bronc riding, tie down roping

Numerous Northwest Colorado athletes qualify for national finals

Craig's Garrett Uptain, pictured, won a state rodeo championship in saddle bronc riding during Memorial Day weekend in Lamar, Maybell's Trent Vernon also taking a title in tie down roping. Both qualified for the national round in Gillette, Wyoming, with Uptain also doing so in bull riding. Other Moffat County athletes headed to the national finals include Kinlie Brennise, Dusty Taylor and Cutter Barnes.

For some, the end of an era is coming as they embark on bigger things, while others have plenty more to come in their favorite sport at the high school level. But, they all have one thing in common: this ain't their last rodeo by a long shot.

The Colorado State High School Rodeo AssociationColorado State High School Rodeo Association State Finals took place in Lamar during Memorial Day weekend, and multiple Northwest Colorado competitors walked away with championship belt buckles as they and more move on to the national level. State Finals took place in Lamar during Memorial Day weekend, and multiple Northwest Colorado competitors walked away with championship belt buckles as they and more move on to the national level.

Colorado State High School Rodeo Association State Finals took place in Lamar during Memorial Day weekend, and multiple Northwest Colorado competitors walked away with championship belt buckles as they and more move on to the national level.

Rough riders

A year ago, Craig's Garrett Uptain finished the rodeo season as the state runner-up in the saddle bronc event, but the newly graduated Moffat County High School student capped his last high school season with a title as the best bronc rider in Colorado, winning first place by nearly 100 points.

Additionally, Uptain hung in for the completion of the bull riding, finishing the year in third place, which will send him to the finals of the National High School Rodeo AssociationNational High School Rodeo Association starting July 17 in Gillette, Wyoming. starting July 17 in Gillette, Wyoming.

National High School Rodeo Association starting July 17 in Gillette, Wyoming.

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It's an event he's seen before, and he intends to round out his high school career in good standing. Honing his style in the arena will take still more practice in the weeks to come, and continually getting on the horses and bulls he'll be riding is the key.

"I'll figure little things out here and there, but if I keep getting on, that'll help the most," he said. "It's cool to see a bunch of kids that are the best in their whole state, competing against the best in the whole nation. It's cool to be at that level, but at the same time you've got to look at it like it's just another rodeo."

Uptain will be joined by many of his fellow athletes from Moffat and Routt counties, such as Yampa's Eric Logan, who claimed first in steer wrestling at stateYampa’s Eric Logan, who claimed first in steer wrestling at state and reserve champion in all-around points. Maybell’s Cutter Barnes took fourth in steers at state and will return to the national event as a result. and reserve champion in all-around points. Maybell's Cutter Barnes took fourth in steers at state and will return to the national event as a result.

Yampa's Eric Logan, who claimed first in steer wrestling at state and reserve champion in all-around points. Maybell's Cutter Barnes took fourth in steers at state and will return to the national event as a result.

Barnes tackled the big boys last year at nationals but struggled to finish as highly as he wanted, which he plans to change this time, ready for any kind of combative cattle.

"They're really tough to get by, running hard, and it's hard to get a good out on them and set up your run," he said. "I'm just making sure I'm practiced up and ready to go for it, that my head is in the game."

Rope it up

Moffat County's other state champion was Maybell's Trent Vernon, staying at the top of the rankings to win the tie down roping event, which came right down to the short round.

"There was some competition, and I had to step my game up," he said. "I was leading it going in by quite a few points, but it was pretty close."

Vernon, who goes to nationals for the first time ever, won't be the only member of his team representing Colorado in the tie down — Craig's Dusty Taylor took fourth in the contest to make the cut, barely edging out teammate Kasen Brennise in fifth.

Taylor and Barnes also placed fourth in team roping, in which Yampa’s Jace Logan took third with a Delta partner and Eric Logan and Craig's Yancey Weber were sixth. After being the points leaders at the beginning of the spring, Taylor and Barnes are ready to finish in style as a duo.

"Me and Cutter have been roping pretty good lately, so I'm excited to see how it goes," Taylor said. "I'm trying to keep my mindset, not let nationals psych us out."

Weekly roping sessions at the Moffat County Fairgrounds during the summer will help them stay ready, he added. Small jackpots help focus competitive nature.

"That way we know what can and can't do, where our boundaries are, if we can go for it or just stay consistent," Taylor said.

Kinlie Brennise had perhaps the busiest weekend of all in Lamar, finishing the state finals as the girls reserve champion in all-around points behind La Junta's Kelly Valdez and one point away from first place in the breakaway roping, for which she won the opening round.

"I had a game plan going in, and it ended up working out," she said.

She also placed third in goat tying in a field that included Samantha Pearce, of Hamilton, to gain entry to nationals. Though Kinlie came close in also qualifying for the next round in pole bending and team roping with brother Kasen, she's prepared to put forth her full effort in her first year at high school nationals.

"It's a little nerve-wracking because I've never been there before, but I had a pretty good year," she said.

More competition to come

The next few months of the calendar are largely reserved for rodeo for the Moffat County bunch, who plan to attend events in Steamboat Springs throughout the summer as well as pro sessions within the state and events like Little Britches and the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, shortly before the national finals.

"That'll be good competition," Taylor said of the IFYR.

College rodeo is also in store for several of them this fall — Taylor is off to University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; Uptain to Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming; Vernon to Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas; and Barnes will compete with Central Arizona College in Casa Grande, Arizona.

"It's a good place to be because it's good weather all year, tough people to help you with your roping," Barnes said of the school he'll be attending.

As for the rodeo stars who still have more high school to go, the months before CSHSRA action begins anew will be enjoyable themselves.

"It'll be an exciting summer," Kinlie said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.