Lamar Community College freshman Nate Hoey from Montrose will compete in bull riding at the College National Finals Rodeo this summer. The CNFR starts June 10 with performances and slack, and continues through June 15. The finals are held in Casper, Wyoming.
Hoey, who finished second in the Central Rocky Mountain Region and currently sits 22nd in the national standings, will ride June 10-12.
While Hoey has had a season to remember, it almost didn't happen. He was in an accident while competing in August that put him in the hospital and almost cut his career short.
"Right before I came to school, I ended up getting a concussion and having a seizure, which had the potential to end my career," Hoey said. "The doctor game me the go-ahead to ride, but if something like that happens again I'll need to be done."
It didn't take Hoey long to get back in the saddle after he received medical clearance. He was competing again in late September, but with little luck.
At the Antelope Stampede held in Lamar, Hoey clocked a 7.71 ride, a solid ride but just shy of earning points.
"The fall season wasn't bad," Hoey said, "I was just trying to get over the injury, sometimes I'd be really hot and then I'd struggle on others."
Even with the rough start, he battled back and competed well when it mattered most, accruing enough points in the spring season to earn a place at the CNFR.
Hoey climbed his way up the ranks during the spring season, first earning points in Cheyenne at the Laramie County Community College rodeo with a third-place finish to get him on the region boards.
He hit his stride in April with back-to-back first-place finishes at the Skyline Stampede at Colorado State University and Casper College. His first win put him in fourth place in the region standings, while his victory in Casper pulled him all the way to second place.
The top three contestants in each event from each region qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo. With just one contest left in the season, Hoey had his sights set on maintaining his top-three spot and earn a place at the nationals.
In the last rodeo of the season at the University of Wyoming on April 26-29, Hoey's sixth-place finish scored him enough points to solidify his second-place spot in the Region and punch his ticket to the CNFR. He finished the season with a cumulative 465 points, just 35 behind the region's first-place finisher Jacob Smith of UW.
LCC head coach Fred Sherwood is proud of what Hoey has been able to accomplish and looking forward to the CNFR.
"Nate rode really well this spring after a slow fall season," he said. "He has a really good chance of doing good things up there."
Hoey hopes his coach is right on the money.
"I've been hot here lately, so I'm hoping I can keep that rolling through the finals and make a pretty good deal out of it," he said.
While CNFR is the biggest stage for a college rider, this won't be Hoey's first high-profile rodeo.
"I'm a little nervous," Hoey said of the upcoming competition. "This is one of the biggest stages I've competed on so far. I rode in the Battle of the States Challenge Champions in Redmond, Oregon, two years ago - my senior year in high school - and it was definitely an eye-opener on how the big stage could get. Now I'm headed to this, which is just as big of a stage, if not bigger."