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Caleb McMillan’s name was all over the day sheet in Tuesday’s slack at the College National Finals Rodeo. It also ended the afternoon on top of one leaderboard.

The Northwest College junior competed in tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, and he saved the best for last. McMillan won the second go-round in bull riding with a 78-point ride and leads the average by 3.5 points (156.5).

McMillan is accustomed to multitasking.

“This is actually pretty laid back,” he said. “I usually bulldog and team rope and trip steers at the rodeos too, and it’s usually in a shorter rodeo. So this is actually pretty laid back.”

He was one of eight bull riders to complete a ride in the second go-round, down from 14 on Sunday. Only McMillan and Chico State’s Jake Peterson scored better than 75 in the second round.

McMillan also took third in the second go-round in tie-down roping with a time of 8.8 seconds. He was bucked in both his saddle bronc rides, however.

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In bull riding, at least, McMillan is well on the way to his goal of reaching the final go-round.

“I’ve rode a bull every year and missed the short round by about one or two (points), and I’ve missed the short round of calf roping by one or two every year,” said McMillan, who is at his third CNFR. “I’ve just been right on the bubble every year.”

Howard College’s Dalton Kasel is second in the average with 153 points, and Sheridan College’s Coby Johnson is third with 148.5.

Johnson needed more time to describe his ride Tuesday than to actually complete the ride itself:

“Right out there, I thought he was going to turn back away from my hand, and I kind of jumped in there, and he decided he wasn’t going to go that way and jumped ahead, came back in my hand. He had me right there in the well, and I climbed out. Then he had me to the outside, and I headed back to the inside, so I had to work the whole time. It was not easy.”

That made the 8-second buzzer a relief in more ways than one.

“I wanted to come in and just show everybody I could ride bulls as well as I can,” the freshman said. “That was my plan, and I’m sticking to it pretty well right now.”

In saddle bronc riding, Clarendon College’s Riggin Smith won the second go-round Tuesday with a 77 atop Harry Vold Rodeo’s Blue Swan.

“I called a couple guys that had been on her at pro rodeos and stuff, and they loved her,” Smith said. “Everybody loved her. She’s pretty old, so she’s not going to throw anything at you that you don’t know is coming. So it’s just a big mental thing for me, knowing she knows her job. I’ve just got to do my job.”

He did just that, adding to his 78 from the first round. The sophomore is competing in his first college finals.

“I don’t know what it is about the building,” he said. “You walk in here, and you just feel it. It’s just great to be able to get on here and show what you’re made of. Everything that they say about this place is true and then some. The atmosphere is amazing. The competition is the best you can get. It’s just amazing.”

Gillette College’s Carter Elshere scored a 75 on Tuesday to move into a tie with Clarendon College’s Tegan Smith for third place (149.5). He rode Southwick’s Honeybuns, something he had done before.

“It went pretty good the first time,” he said. “I got on her at Torrington’s college rodeo and actually ended up winning the long round on her there.”

Elshere took third in saddle bronc riding last year with an average of 284.5.

“I drew pretty good last year, and that helps a lot,” he said. “I guess I was just riding all right last year, and that helped too.”

Tuesday's performance

In saddle bronc riding, Dawson Dahm took the lead in Tuesday's performance with a re-ride. Just before the bull riding began, Dahm took to the arena for a 73.5, putting him in first by 2.5 points (215.5.).

Panhandle State's Cooper Thatcher, who led by two points after the first two go-rounds, needed just 53 points to temporarily tie for the lead. His 55 got the job done but only until Dahm's re-ride.

Thatcher had taken the lead from Casper College's Lane Schuelke, who became the first rider to cover three saddle broncs. His 73.5 in the third round was his best of the week.

In bull riding, four riders held on for the full 8 seconds. Panola College's Daylon Swearingen scored a 79 to take the lead in the aggregate (161).

Lamar Community College's Nate Hoey (78.5), Panola's Ross Freeman (76.5) and Iowa Central Community College's Nick Pelke (73) also added scores. Pelke was the only one among them with a ride already on the books, putting him at 149.5 total.

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Managing Editor

Brandon Foster is the Star-Tribune's managing editor. He joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 as the University of Wyoming sports reporter after graduating from the University of Missouri and covering Mizzou athletics for two years.

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