Gillette College bareback rider Devan Reilly prepares for College National Finals Rodeo

From Gillette College reports - Devan Reilly still gets chills when he thinks about competing at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper last summer.

The roar of the crowd. The ill-mannered rough stock. The elite athletes.

“Going down there last year, you know a lot of those kids are competing in pro rodeos, too. So you know you’re going against future competitors at the NFR and future top contenders in the world,” Reilly said. “It’s probably one of the coolest rodeos I’ve ever been too.”

Reilly, a Gillette College bareback rider, won the short go-round last year and finished seventh in the national standings. The weeklong rodeo took a toll on his body.

Reilly earned re-rides after mounting consecutive even-tempered horses. He left the Casper Events Center with a dedication to bolster not only his technique, but his fitness level, as well.

“That’s why I’m working out and doing all this training: for getting on those re-rides,” said Reilly, 22. “Some kids would be tired or hurt. Maybe you couldn’t get the horse covered. But if you’re in great shape, you can get on them and get on them stronger. It helps your mentality.”

Reilly will compete again at this year’s CNFR, which starts Sunday, June 15, in Casper. He hopes he doesn’t need re-rides, but if he does, he’ll be ready.

Reilly’s training regimen is a mixture of traditional and unorthodox. He pounds posts at the NX Bar Ranch near his hometown of Sheridan during the day and hits the gym at night. Some days, he hikes up Red Grade Road, which snakes steeply up the Bighorn Mountains, with a 90-pound pack. Other days, he swims, sprints and does yoga, which he had to talk himself into.

“My theory on working out is to do something nobody else is going to do,” said Reilly, an avid outdoorsman and bowhunter. “I’ll do ladder drills and dot drills to keep my feet faster for bareback riding when you’re spurring and you’re using eye-to-feet coordination.”

Reilly, a recent graduate of the industrial electricity program at Gillette College, finished third in the Central Rocky Mountain Region standings of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Guided by head coach Will LaDuke, both Gillette College men’s and women’s teams won the region, earning bids to the CNFR.

Reilly has trained for months for his second appearance at the CNFR. He spends his evenings practicing on a spur board and watching tape of the world’s top bareback rider, Kaycee Feild. He wants to be as prepared as possible.

“There is a lot of things you can’t control in rodeo: the draw, the weather or the judges,” he said. “You just have to go out there and leave it all on the line and have fun with it.”

Reilly has ambitions of competing against Feild and the rest of the nation’s standout professionals. But he doesn’t like to look too far ahead, saying he takes it “one horse at a time.”

It’s a mantra he’s abided by since his youth wrestling days. It’s also one of the goals he wrote on his mirror.

“When I brush my teeth, I can’t see myself,” Reilly said. “I see my goals.”

Reilly walked on the rodeo team at Casper College his freshman year. He didn’t have much experience; he just wanted to stay involved in athletics following a stellar career in both wrestling and football at Sheridan High School. He made the team his sophomore year, earned an associate of fire science and transferred to Gillette College to enroll in the dynamic technical programs.

He has one year of eligibility left in the collegiate ranks and plans to spend it at rodeo powerhouse Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, this fall. He earned a full scholarship.

“I’m just going to soak it up,” he said. “I’ll be done with college. I’d like to pursue rodeo and take it as far as I can. I’ll have two degrees to fall back on.”

To fully prepare for the CNFR, Reilly and some buddies will travel to rodeos in Cortez, Colo., Herriman, Utah, and Garden City, Kan., before landing at the Casper Events Center.

“Rodeo can be negative. If you hit the ground or something went wrong, you can really get down on yourself really quick. Rodeo has taught me a lot about life. I’ve learned to be more positive,” he said. “If something goes wrong, ‘Hey, it’s over with. You’re riding good.’

“It goes with anything in life.”
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