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Riggin Smith didn’t want to think. He just wanted to ride.

With his first national championship in the balance, he wasn’t interested in taking any chances.

Clarendon College’s sophomore saddle bronc rider held on to his lead in the average with a 76.5 in the short round to claim the title Saturday at the College National Finals Rodeo. As Smith waited to do the final ride of the round, a handful of others moved to the top of the average, including Hill College’s Parker Fleet, who rode the Vold Rodeo Company’s Frisky Chicken to a 76 — his highest score of the week — that gave him 296.5 total points.That left Smith needing just 62.5 points to secure the championship. Smith had covered on each of his first three go-rounds with his second-ride score of 77 being his lowest of the week. Another cover would almost certainly be good enough, but Smith wasn’t think about just staying on his horse, Vold Rodeo Company’s Painted Coast, for the full 8 seconds.

“I was just trying to do the best I could on what I got,” Smith said. “I got on a great horse. It was awesome.”

Smith posted his lowest score of the week in the short round, but even if his thought process wasn’t as simple as covering, it’s all he needed. He did that for the fourth — and most important — time this week to walk off college rodeo’s biggest stage with a championship in his first-ever appearance. Smith’s teammate, Tegan Smith, finished third in the average while Panhandle College teammates Cooper Thatcher and Dawson Dahm came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

“It means everything,” Riggin Smith said. “I came in here and did what I wanted to do. Man, I just .. God’s so good to me.”

In bull riding, Panola College’s Daylon Swearingen caught a break when Sheridan College’s Coby Johnson failed to cover for the first time this week. Swearingen took advantage by covering with a 76 in the short round to take the national title in his first CNFR appearance.

“I know I can’t rely on someone else,” said Swearingen, who trailed Johnson by 70.5 points in the average heading into the finals. “I have to take care of my business.”

Johnson took that lead by covering on all of his first three gos — the only bull rider to do so. Johnson took his final ride just before Swearingen but couldn’t stay on Frontier Rodeo Company’s Show Ring for the full 8 seconds. It left Swearingen, who bounced back from a no score on his second go-round with a 79 on his third ride to give himself a chance, knowing exactly what he needed on the final ride of the event. He left no doubt.

“I feel like in this sport you have to feel like you’re winning or you’re beat before you even get in there just like in anything,” Swearingen said.

Howard College’s Dalton Kasel (234 total points) won the short round with an 81 to finish runner-up.

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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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