The weekly rodeo
MCHS, CMS rodeo teams gains experience with practices
Every Tuesday night is rodeo night in Craig.
That’s the case, anyway, for the Moffat County High School and Craig Middle School rodeo teams.
Every week, team members take turns roping cattle and fine-tuning horsemanship at the Steele’s barn in south Craig.
The football field-sized barn is complete with chutes, cattle, and cowboys and cowgirls sharpening their skills.
For Casey Barnes, 14, the added practice has helped him climb to the top in several events.
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“It’s been a really good year,” he said. “I’ve been doing well in everything — bull riding, chute dogging, ribbon roping, breakaway and goats.”
But Casey said one event has stood out more than the others.
“So far, ribbon roping has been my best,” he said. “I’m winning it in state.
“Everything has been going pretty good, too. I’m first in the all-around by 100 points.”
His success has come from two sources.
“Practice has definitely helped a lot,” Casey said. “I’ve just been trying my best.”
Casey, a CMS eighth-grader, said practicing with high school rodeo athletes has been good and bad.
“It’s good because you learn a lot,” he said. “It’s bad because their bad habits rub off on you.”
Bad habits aside, Casey said his goal was to be all-around champion this season.
Fifth-grader Cutter Barnes also has benefited from added practice.
“It’s going good,” he said. “Right now, I’m sitting fourth in breakaway roping and third in team roping.”
Cutter, who has been competing in Little Britches rodeos, said the transition to junior high school rodeo was an easy one.
“It’s pretty much the same,” he said. “Some of the events are different, but it’s not too different.”
Sixth-grader Trent Vernon is also enjoying his first year on the middle school rodeo team.
“Right now, I’m pretty high in some events,” Trent said. “I’m not first yet, but I’m going to keep working on it.”
Trent, 11, has big plans for the year.
“I think making it to junior nationals would be pretty cool,” he said. “I heard they have a lot of cool stuff there.”
Gabbi Steele, 16, also would like to advance to the highest level this season.
“I’d like to make it to the national rodeo in pole bending,” she said. “I just have to ride aggressively enough.”
Steele said she needs to continue to work on being more consistent, but the MCHS sophomore has seen an improvement in most of her events.
“My roping is a lot better,” she said. “I’ve been working on it three times a week.”
Taylor Vernon, 17, has assumed the role of senior leader on the team a year after her brother, Troy, graduated.
But it isn’t as if this year’s team is a collection of new faces, she said.
“It’s all right,” Taylor said about being the lone senior. “We’re all related, and we’ve been around each other our whole lives.”
This year, Taylor said her pole bending, barrel racing and goat tying have all improved.
“It started off a little rough,” she said. “It’s starting to get better.”
If she can continue improving, Vernon said her goal would be to make it to the high school national rodeo.
“I would just like to make it to the short-go in every event,” she said. “Going to nationals would be a pretty big deal. But I would have to step it up.”
Helping her along the way would be more than just her family and teammates.
With the June 19 Colorado State Rodeo in Craig this year, Taylor said the team is looking forward to a stadium full of support.
“It’s going to be awesome,” she said. “We’re definitely going to have a hometown advantage.
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Craig Middle School staff will continue to wear masks this week, and two other schools in the district are close to doing the same, according to numbers from the Moffat County School District’s COVID-19 dashboard.