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CNFR - Tuesday

Sheridan College bareback bronc rider Chance Ames holds tight during Tuesday night's performance of the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center.

Chance Ames had a choice to make.

Ames had already covered all three of his rides in bareback bronc riding at the College National Finals Rodeo. After notching a score of 73 points on his final ride during Tuesday night’s performance at the Casper Events Center, the junior from Sheridan College had 228 total points that almost certainly would’ve locked him in to Saturday’s finals.

But Ames earned a re-ride after judges ruled his horse, Frontier Rodeo's Sweet Child, didn’t give the Big Piney native a fair chance. That meant Ames could either take the 73 or try to go higher with his third and final score, which also came with the risk of losing all of those points if he chose the latter and didn’t cover.

There was also a spot atop the leaderboard to consider. Coffeyville Community College’s Chance Merrill began the performance trailing Ames by just four points before covering on his third go-around with an 80.

But Ames didn’t reach the pinnacle of the college sport in his home state just to live in his fears.

“I was sitting there debating in my mind whether I should (take the re-ride) or not,” Ames said. “And kind of that angel on my shoulder said, ‘You came here to win. Take it.’”

The gamble paid off.

Ames not only covered but bettered Merrill’s third score by notching an 81.5 -- the highest score in a single go-around so far in the event. Ames wasn’t short on emotion once the score was announced, yelling and pumping his fist in celebration toward a crowd that cheered him on for the entire 8 seconds.

“It felt awesome being in the great state of Wyoming and hearing all your hometown folks kind of cheering for you like that after a good ride. It’s pretty awesome,” Ames said. “It’s almost kind of like they deserve it to get them going a little bit.”

The ride put Ames in the lead with three more days of third-round competition to sift through before the field is set for the finals. It’s shaping up to be by far the best CNFR showing for Ames, who’s competing in the event for the third straight year.

Two years ago, Ames finished seventh. His 294 points last year were only good enough for ninth. Ames, who’d never totaled more than 78.5 points in a single ride at the college finals before this year, has led from the start with 79.5 points in his first go-around during Sunday's Bulls, Broncos and Breakaway competition and sits at 236.5 total points -- 5.5 points ahead of Merrill, who’d notched the event’s highest single-ride score on Frontier’s Crazy Buck just minutes before Ames surpassed it.

“I thought it could be (an 80),” Merrill said of his final go-around. “I know that horse really bucks. I was just happy when I heard that.”

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Ames credited his improved showing this year to maturity as much as anything. Having experienced the event before has opened his eyes to the importance of taking care of his body in between rides.

He’ll need to do that for a few more days before he gets his final chance to finish what he came to town to accomplish.

“I just treated it more like a business trip,” Ames said. “I came here to win the nationals and take care of business, but the last two years, I was kind of immature and kind of played too much. This year, I’m trying to stay rested up and keep my mind on the prize.

“If you’re going to do it, be a cowboy about it. I didn’t come here to win second.”

Wednesday's results

Casper College's Cole Reiner moved into the top 5 in bareback with a score of 75 in his third go-round. Reiner (222.5 total points) notched the highest score of Wednesday's riders.

Panola College's Tyler Johnson vaulted to third with a 74 in his third ride, giving him 227.5 total points. He's within nine points of Sheridan College's Chance Ames (236.5) and Coffeyville Community College's Chance Merrill (231), who both had their third go's Tuesday.

College of Southern Idaho's Klancy Krenka (216) and McNeese State's Waylon Bourgeois (212.5) were the only other bareback riders Wednesday to cover all three and position themselves for a spot in Saturday's finals. Krenka matched his first-round score of 74.

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Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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