Jhett Johnson is understandably excited about this weekend.

The Casper College rodeo coach enters his first full season as the Thunderbirds’ coach after taking over last spring when longtime coach Tom Parker died after a battle with cancer.

“I really like the way things are shaping up with this team,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some kids with experience who are back and we’ve got a great group of freshmen.”

The 2017-18 Central Rocky Mountain Region rodeo season kicks off this weekend at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.

The Casper College men’s team finished a disappointing sixth in last year’s CRMR standings, but return Logan Brown, a College National Finals Rodeo qualifier in tie-down roping, as well as bronc riders Clayton Atkinson and J.W. Meiers.

The promising group of freshmen include team ropers Wheaton Williams (Big Horn), Jerren Johnson (Casper) and Owen Wahlert.

The most-important addition for the T-Birds, though, might be assistant coach Neil Williams. The former Natrona County and Casper College standout was a three-time CNFR qualifier.

“I never competed in roughstock,” said Jhett Johnson, the 2011 world champion heeler. “So when Neil came on board it just made us so diversified.”

The women’s team finished third in the CRMR team standings last year and returns solid point-getters in Kassidy Williams, Peggy Garman and Kaycee Monnens. The T-Birds also bring in freshmen Makenna Balkenbush (Sheridan) and Reata Beck (Albin), who are expected to compete in multiple events.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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