Professional cowboy from Craig looks to build up CNCC rodeo team

Eli Pace
Craig Press
Garrett Uptain, shown here competing in the saddle bronc event, became the rodeo coach for Colorado Northwest Community College on Nov. 1. He said much of his focus early on will go into building up the team’s numbers.
Courtesy photo

Craig native Garrett Uptain has taken the reins of the Colorado Northwest Community College rodeo team. Now, he needs a few more cowboys and cowgirls who want to ride with the Spartans.

Putting CNCC’s calf ropers, barrel racers and bull riders under the leadership of a 24-year-old who may be young, but is no stranger to the rodeo arena or to Moffat County, Uptain became CNCC’s rodeo coach on Nov, 1, taking over for Tammy Olson. According to Olson, Uptain is “a great new college rodeo coach” who “will do a super job with the program moving forward.”

This might be Uptain’s first official job as a rodeo coach, but given his experience in high school, college and as a pro, it’s not his first rodeo.

Uptain graduated from Moffat County High School and competed in rodeo throughout his high school and college careers. In high school, he did some roping events, while also riding bulls and saddle bronc. In college and as a pro, he focused largely on the saddle bronc and bull riding events.

Garrett Uptain
Courtesy photo

After high school, Uptain attended Sheridan College in Wyoming, Chadron State College in Nebraska and the University of Wyoming — each for two years.

In college, Uptain made the national college finals three times — four if he counts the year that he qualified but the finals were canceled because of COVID. He also qualified for the state rodeo circuit six consecutive times and the national circuit finals twice. Uptain said he took a lot of lessons away from his experience in the arena, including a desire to someday be a coach.

“I just saw that those coaches can show their knowledge and their experience to those younger kids, and that was something that I wanted to share through my experience through college rodeo, through professional rodeo, with this next group of kids coming up,” he said. “Hopefully, they can get something out of it and use it to either further their careers if they want to continue rodeoing, or mostly just making them better individuals and helping through their education.”

He completed his college work this year with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a graduate certificate in teaching secondary content. Upon graduating, Uptain was drawn to a CNCC job posting for a rodeo coach — a role that he has always wanted that also happened to be in Craig.

“As soon as I saw that there was an opportunity in my hometown, obviously I was going to apply and was really hoping that I got it, and it ended up working out really well for me,” he said.

After CNCC decided to base the college rodeo program in Craig, the rodeo team hosted its annual home rodeo, the Spartan Showdown, at the Moffat County Fairgrounds for the first time ever this fall. Rain soaked the arena throughout the two-day event, creating a fun spectacle of muddy rodeo for fans.

Kourtney Schurman battles the elements and a rain-soaked arena during Colorado Northwest Community College’s Spartan Showdown at Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Eli Pace/Craig Press

However, if something was missing at the showdown, it might have been that only a handful of Spartans competed, as the CNCC rodeo team fielded fewer competitors than most of the schools the Spartans were hosting.

Because of the team’s low numbers, Uptain said much of his efforts are focused on recruitment, in addition to getting the team ready for spring competition.

“Moving forward next year, recruiting is a big thing I’m trying to put a large amount of my focus on — building our team numbers up to get to about 10 to 12 students on our team,” he said. “That will allow us to dip into more events, as well as just have a stronger team in general.”

In particular, Uptain said the Spartans have only two men on the rodeo team, and they could use a few more cowboys.

“I think if we can bump those numbers up to at least six, then we can fill our points team, and that will give us a lot better chance of winning that team title,” he said.

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