Big Sky ConferenceMontana State Bobcats


Montana State set for big stage of College National Finals Rodeo

Cole Gerhardt
Posted at 12:46 PM, Jun 05, 2024

BOZEMAN — This week, the Montana State rodeo team heads to Casper, Wyo., for the College National Finals Rodeo.

There’s not much left to prepare for, as the Bobcats have spent all year training for this weekend.

"It’s like cramming for a test," Bobcats coach Kyle Whitaker explained. "It’s not good to rely on cramming the night before a test, you got to practice for the finals all year long and that’s what we try to do."

Both the men and women come into this weekend after dominating the Big Sky Region in 2023-24. The men finished with 8,252.2 points, while Montana Western trailed in second with 5,510.5 points. The women tallied 3,640.16, leading second-place MSU-Northern, which finished with 2,988.5.

"You know, the men’s team stepped it up," Whitaker said. "They really matured. The women’s team came through. We had a younger women’s team, and a lot of people stepped up that hadn’t done it before. So to me, just the whole spring season was amazing. That’s what stands out to me."

MSU freshman Cole Gerhardt captured region all-around cowboy honors. Fellow freshman Wyatt Jensen won the region’s tie-down title and sophomore Jaden Whitman won in steer wrestling.

"We’ve been pushing each other," MSU senior Bode Spring said. "We have a really strong bulldogging presence. and then some new tie-down ropers that have been helping push each other. But as far as the team standings go, I think we’re pretty well represented."

Spring is entered in tie-down roping at the CNFR. He finished second in the region in that event.

Senior Tayla Moeykens won the region’s barrel racing crown this year and won the national championship in that event in 2021. She’s already made a splash at pro rodeos but is looking forward to this last go-round at her fourth CNFR.

"You what to expect from it," she said. "The CNFR puts on a great production. But there’s still little changes that can happen and so you go there and you have to be able to adapt to whatever situation you’re in. Like I said, I just go there and try and focus on that run for that day."

With the semester coming to a close a few weeks ago, the student-athletes have been able to train on their own before returning to Bozeman in these final days to head to the CNFR together.

"I’ve been going to pro rodeos to keep my barrel horses going, and I’ve entered a few of those in the breakaway, as well," Moeykens said. "All that’s been going pretty good. I’ve also been going out to our facility and roping cattle out there, as well, and then tuning up on our barrel horses at home."

Moeykens is a Three Forks native, and Spring is Bozeman’s own. They’ve spent years representing their hometown university at the highest level.

"It’s pretty special," Spring said. "I definitely feel like I know everybody here, and it’s always a pleasure at the spring rodeo, too, when I get announced and it’s definitely quite a bit louder than most others, but it’s been great."

Montana State's rodeo team is nationally acclaimed, and Whitaker explained how he's able to continue to fill gaps as standout athletes move on and graduate from the program

"It helps having all the support we get from Montana State University, the athletic department, all the way to President (Waded) Cruzado," he said. "A lot of kids want to come here because, A, it’s a beautiful place. B, you get treated like the football players pretty much, and you don’t get that a lot of other places."

The 2024 CNFR is televised on ESPN3, with the schedule available here.