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Mitchell finishes 11th at national rodeo
The odds were stacked against Spencer Mitchell and Dakota Kirchenschlager qualifying for the PRCA Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, making it all the more impressive when they won two of the 10 rounds in the team roping competition at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
All told, Mitchell and Kirchenschlager earned $43,876, finishing in the money in the fifth, sixth and ninth rounds. Their times put them in 11th place overall.
Kirchenschlager, 21, of Texas, didn't qualify for the finals until the week before the event, and Mitchell, 24, of Williams, only qualified a short time before that.
The duo overcame the loss of their close friend and Mitchell's former roping partner, Broc Cresta of Santa Rosa, who died in July, and won the fifth and ninth rounds at the prestigious event.
Most of the athletes at the rodeo wore patches or stickers which had Cresta's initials on it. Mitchell grew up in Windsor, just down the road from Santa Rosa where Cresta lived.
Mitchell moved to Williams in 2004, where he went through the independent study program at Colusa High, and they continued roping together, winning several state titles in high school.
Last year, Mitchell and Cresta won the 10th round at the national finals.
"Everyone's together all year and it just shows everyone that anything can happen at any point in time. It's a family sport and we're all together in this sport," Mitchell said.
In August, Mitchell, the header, returned to the saddle across the chute from Kirchenschlager, the heeler, whom he has known for 10 years. As children they learned together on roping dummies and spent a lot of time together practicing when Mitchell lived in Texas in 2007, Mitchell said.
"Broc and I traveled with Dakota and he would always be the next person I roped with," Mitchell said. "Dakota is still young and still learning a lot, but he listens really well and he's so talented. We've roped together for long enough that we know how to win together."
It didn't take long to get on the same page and they squeaked into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the last minute, but things didn't start out smoothly.
Through the first four days of the competition they only posted one time, a slow 9.3 seconds in Round 3, and they ran into another hiccup in Round 5 on Monday.
"That afternoon I got sick, I couldn't keep anything down. Right before the bell to go out, I got a little dizzy and went to the sports medicine room and had to have other people get the horses ready," Mitchell said.
They posted a time of 3.7 seconds, the quickest of the rodeo to that point, and finished the round tied with Brock Hanson and Ryan Motes for first place.
From that point on, Mitchell and Kirchenschlager fit into their groove. They tied for third in Round 6 with a time of 4.2 seconds and notched a 5.8-second Round 7. In Round 9, they posted the quickest time of 4 seconds and won the round in front of 17,672 fans.
"It was a struggle to get there, and this year was a struggle for a lot of people. It was a relief. I knew we had the capability to do it, but both of us were just extremely happy to make it there the way we did," Mitchell said.
Mitchell's parents, Cyndi and Steve Mitchell, spent the entire 10-day competition in Las Vegas cheering on their son and couldn't be any prouder.
"(Steve Mitchell) actually roped back there. It used to be always Steve's son, Spencer, and now it's Spencer's dad, Steve," Cyndi Mitchell said.
Another family member, Spencer's 6-year-old nephew from Oklahoma, Trigger James, took second place in the dummy roping competition last week.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.