In 2015, Colton Kofoed was the National High School Finals Rodeo tie-down roping champ. Monday, for the first time in nearly four years, the native of Bear River, Wyoming, which is just outside of Evanston, was back on a national stage.
Kofoed, who now competes for Western Oklahoma State College, finished third in the first go-round of the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center with a 9.3-second run. Tarleton State’s Wyatt Williams won the go with an 8.1, and Texas A&M-Commerce’s Ty Harris, the defending national champ, was second with a 9.2. But after what Kofoed has been through since winning the NHSFR championship, he might have been the real winner.
Not long after his high school title he went on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two-year mission to Argentina had to be cut short, however.
“I had a cyst in my spine so they sent me home early,” Kofoed said. He credits National Finals Rodeo veteran tie-down ropers Cory Solomon, Jake Hannum and Ryle Smith for helping him get back on track.
But during Kofoed’s freshman year he nearly lost his right hand when a rope coiled around it.
“I had to get 62 stitches,” he said.
Exactly one year later he hurt the top of the same hand and had to miss two rodeos. And this year on that date?
“I locked myself in my room,” Kofoed laughed.
Central Wyoming College’s Nathan Weyrich might be new to the sport of rodeo, but it doesn’t show. Monday, he had a 3.9-second run to tie Northwestern Oklahoma State Bridger Anderson for the first-round win.
“I grew up around a ranch and I’ve got an uncle (Charlie Needham) who was an NFR cowboy,” Weyrich said. “So I’ve been around the sport, but I didn’t rodeo until I came to college.
“I was running with some rodeo boys and they had to get to practice and they said, ‘Why don’t you come along?’ That was two years and about 25 or 26 rodeos ago.”
Weyrich, an all-state wrestler at Worland, simply traded in a human opponent for a bovine one.
“It’s kind of the same thing,” Weyrich said. “I just needed to know one move (an arm bar).”
Anderson, who had a no-time in his first CNFR run last year, was ready when his turn came this year.
“The steers looked pretty fun and the start was fast so I just tried to be a little behind the barrier,” he said. “Now we can just stay solid and make good runs the rest of the week.”
Whitney DeSalvo has found a rhythm at the Events Center. The Arkansas-Monticello breakaway roper set the arena record last year with a 1.7-second run. Monday, she took the lead in the second go-round with a 2.2 and also leads the average with a two-run time of 4.5 seconds.
“I’ve just been trying to hit the start and rope the calves,” DeSalvo said. “The start is kind of short, and the calves are running so you can run one a little further and get a couple more swings and be just as fast.”
Making her first two runs even more impressive is that DeSalvo is riding a horse she had never competed on before this week. Thankfully, she was able to borrow a horse from a friend the week before she got to Casper.
“The horse I rode last year broke his leg three weeks ago,” DeSalvo said. “I had a lot of confidence coming in on that horse, but I just feel like everything happens for a reason, and everything is kind of working out.”
Chadron State College’s Quincy Segelke, who tied for the first-round win with a 2.1, had a 2.6 and is second in the average with a 4.7.
Gillette College’s Taylour Latham is here for the long haul again. After finishing seventh last year, the sophomore goat tyer got off to a solid start Monday with a 5.8-second run to tie Cochise College’s Maddee Doerr for the first-round win.
“It gives me confidence,” Latham said, “but I’m taking it one run at a time because it’s a marathon and not a sprint. That one was a sprint and now I’ll take the rest as a marathon.
“I just wanted to make a good run and it happened to work out for me. I knew it was good, but I didn’t think it was quite that fast. And then I heard my grandma yelling in the stands and I looked up (at the scoreboard) and I was like, ‘Oh, dang!’”
With half of the team ropers recording a no-time, Hill College’s Cyle Denison and Ross Ashford definitely stood out Monday, winning the first go with a 5.0-second run.
Casper College’s Jerren Johnson kept the T-Birds on a winning path when he and partner Braden Pirrung of Eastern Wyoming College finished second with a 6.6.
Defending national champion header Kellan Johnson of Gillette College, roping with Casper College’s Cash Hetzel, had a no-time.