Dane Kissack and Jordan Thurston-Miller are no strangers to the College National Finals Rodeo, having both qualified for the season-ending event for the fourth time this year.
The Gillette College seniors also have had success here, with Thurston-Miller winning the goat tying title in 2010 and Kissack placing third in tie-down roping in 2011.
Last year, however, both Kissack and Thurston-Miller struggled. Kissack had two no-times and finished at the bottom of the tie-down standings while Thurston-Miller failed to make the short go-round for the first time.
They’re ready to make amends this year.
“I want to win a national title this year,” Kissack said. “I feel like I have the best horse that’s going to be [at the CNFR]. I feel like I’ve practiced as hard as or harder than anyone.
“I’m in the best shape physically and mentally that I’ve ever been in my life, and then you put a horse like this underneath me and it really gets me motivated. I feel like I have an advantage before I even nod my head.”
Lizzie, Kissack’s mare, will be making her first appearance at the CNFR.
“I got her last fall and she just turned six this spring, which is incredibly young for a horse in my event,” Kissack said. “But she’s just phenomenal. She’s the best horse I’ve ever been on.”
Thurston-Miller will also be working with a new horse this week as she’ll ride her brother Ace’s horse, Lucky.
No matter the horse’s name, Kissack and Thurston-Miller have already proved they can win at college rodeo’s showcase event. And they’ve left a lasting impression on Gillette College coach Will LaDuke.
“Kids like Jordan and Dane are hard to find, let alone convince to come to your school,” LaDuke said. “They’re two of the finest kids we’ve ever had here and maybe will ever have. I can’t say enough good things about them.”