Lane Schuelke still isn’t sure if he’ll get one more ride this week at the College National Finals Rodeo, but he’s at least given himself a fighting chance.
It’s a lot more than Casper College’s saddle bronc rider could say for himself last year.
Schuelke can only wait to see if his 211 total points are enough to qualify him for Saturday's championship go-round. He covered on all three of his go-rounds and saved his best for last. His score of 73.5 points on his third ride during Tuesday’s performance at the Casper Events Center proved to be his highest so far.
Schuelke’s cumulative score has him in third place in the average after Tuesday. Panhandle State teammates Dawson Dahm and Cooper Thatcher are ahead of him, but only four points separate Schuelke from Dahm, who leads the event after finishing runner-up last year.
“Everything’s been feeling really good,” Schuelke said. “Hopefully we’ll get some good horses in the final, and hopefully make it there, I guess. It’s looking good.”
While Schuelke’s point total figures to earn him a spot in the finals this weekend -- the top 12 riders in the event will qualify -- there are plenty of riders who still have to complete their third go-rounds. Those will continue Wednesday night before wrapping up Friday.
“We’ve got quite a bit of rodeo left,” Schuelke said, “but it feels good to get three covered.”
It’s a far better position than Schuelke found himself last year when he recorded three no-scores while competing for Sheridan College. Having not recorded a single point, he knew midway through the week he would only be a spectator for the finals.
Performing on the sport’s biggest collegiate stage got the best of Schuelke then. He’s in contention this time around, he said, because he’s not putting nearly as much pressure on himself to perform.
“I kind of had a different mindset coming in,” Schuelke said. “Last year was pretty stressful coming for the first time. I wanted to do really good. This year, I just came in just riding the horse and just being me.”
It’s been a far different first experience for Daylon Swearingen in bull riding. The sophomore from Panola College scored an 82 in the first go Sunday and bounced back from a no-score on his second ride to post a 79 on Tuesday night that has him leading the event.
“It’s a little different,” Swearingen said. “Normally at rodeos, you ride for yourself and here you’re riding with a team. So you don’t want to let your teammates down because they’ve all worked hard, and we all want a men’s team national title.”
Swearingen, who is currently No. 23 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bull riding standings, may not stay in the lead for long depending on what happens with other riders who’ve yet to complete their third go-rounds. Northwest College’s Caleb McMillan (156.5), who was leading before Swearingen’s final ride, and Howard College’s Dalton Kasel (153) are both within single digits of Swearingen with their third go's still to come.
But Swearingen, who said he’ll pass the time by competing in a couple other rodeos before Saturday, is hopeful he’s at least done enough to cap his first CNFR experience with an appearance in the finals.
“It’ll be close,” he said.
In saddle bronc, Gillette College's Carter Elshere moved ahead of everybody with a 70 in his third go-round. Elshere's cumulative score of 219.5 in the average is three points ahead Treasure Valley Community College's Jack Bentz, who vaulted into second place with a 74 in his third ride during Wednesday's performance.
None of Wednesday's nine bull riders covered in their final go-rounds, leaving Swearingen in the lead. Southwestern Oklahoma State's Nathan Hatchel, who began the day 15th in the average, was vying to become the first rider this year to ride all three bulls but was bucked by Vold's Brushpopper after just a few seconds to stay at 137.5 total points.