DSU cowboys up for Challenge
Watch your step cowboy and cowgirls. At the Dickinson State Cowboy Challenge, someone is always waiting for you to slip up. The annual event pitting the Blue Hawks against several of the top high school contestants from North Dakota begins at 1 p.m.
Watch your step cowboy and cowgirls. At the Dickinson State Cowboy Challenge, someone is always waiting for you to slip up.
The annual event pitting the Blue Hawks against several of the top high school contestants from North Dakota begins at 1 p.m. today at the DSU Indoor Arena.
DSU sophomore Cody Hilzendeger, who competed at the event while in high school, said the exhibition rodeo is always fun even though it comes can get a little contentious.
"You don't want to get shown up by the high school kids," said Hilzendeger, a Bismarck native who will compete today in steer wrestling and team roping. "You want to put on a good performance."
Though conditions are expected to be unseasonably beautiful outside, the rodeo is being held at the DSU Indoor Arena. The Cowboy Challenge is typically held indoors because of weather. Not long ago, it coincided with a snowstorm descending on southwest North Dakota.
DSU coach Eudell Larsen said having the rodeo indoors was "a tough call to make."
"We start planning this way ahead of time and, of course, the end of March is typically not 70-degree weather," he said with a laugh. "We debated last week about having it outside, but the weather forecast was talking about having wind on Saturday, so we just made the decision to go inside with it regardless."
Indoors or out, however, the contestants are ready to go.
DSU senior Tanner Wznick said the Cowboy Challenge helped sway him to attend the university and join the rodeo team.
"When I came, when I was in high school, it really made me want to come here," said Wznick, a native of Cavalier. "I saw guys who roped calves really tough and I wanted to rope with them. I ended up living with those guys."
The Cowboy Challenge is typically a tune-up rodeo for both college and high school contestants.
While the high schoolers don't resume their season until April 28 in West Fargo, the Blue Hawks are already off and roping. DSU's men and women each finished second at Black Hills State's rodeo last weekend.
The Blue Hawk women lead the Great Plains Region while the men are sitting fourth of a tight race. They are off next weekend and compete April 12-15 at the South Dakota State Rodeo in Brookings, S.D.
Larsen said having the BHSU rodeo in March should help keep his team fresh as it prepares for a grueling stretch of the season.
"It kind of spread them (the Great Plains Region rodeos) out a little bit, which is fine," Larsen said. "Otherwise it's pretty ram and jam through the month of April."
DSU has historically shown marked improvements in the spring part of the Great Plains Region season, too, and hosts the season finale May 4 and 5. Combine that with some good weather and it gives the Blue Hawks hope that the best is yet to come.
"I'm really excited to get going," Hilzendeger said. "I didn't have the greatest fall. It's good to have a little more confidence going now. I just can't wait for the next couple rodeos going in."
Matchups to watch
The Dickinson State Cowboy Challenge pits many of the top high school contestants from around the state against the Blue Hawks' best. The setup brings some intriguing matchups.
Breakaway roping: DSU senior Ashley Schaper leads the Great Plains Region but must face her sister, Killdeer senior Skye Schaper, who ranks second in the North Dakota High School Rodeo Association standings, and Kassie Kautzman, a freshman from Walcott who is the prep standings leader.
Barrel racing: DSU junior Bobbi Grann leads the Great Plains while freshman Michaela Kathrein won last year's NDHSRA championship. The top competitor from the high school ranks is Mandan sophomore Chantel Fettig, the state standings leader.
Saddle bronc riding: Defending Great Plains champion and current leader Riley Knoll, a DSU senior, hosts the best from the high school ranks, including state leader Dalton Rixen, a senior from Richardton, and defending high school champ Taylor Buchholz, a senior from Fort Ransom.
Goat tying: DSU senior Laura Waldo leads the Great Plains with Grann right behind her in second. They go up against Mandan senior Teddi Schwagler, the NDHSRA leader.