LARAMIE, Wyo. | "It might seem kind of crazy when you're talking about being inducted into the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame," said Toni Christinck Olson, of Mud Butte, "But anyone involved in the rodeo world at that time understands."
Olson, originally of Wheatland, Wyo. and now living at Mud Butte with her husband Billy and three sons, Tyus, Trevor and Colby, was one of three women who made up the 1991 National Champion Cowgirl Rodeo Team for the University of Wyoming.
Shanna Newland Howell, of Colony, Wyo., where she was raised and now resides with her husband Guy and daughters Bridget, Brooke, Shayla, and Shyanne, is enjoying this bit of notoriety as well.
The third member of that team, who will also be recognized at a dinner and induction ceremony for the UW Hall of Fame's 25th Class, is Lori Rhodes Shepard, of Canon City, Colo.
The event will take place on Friday, Sept. 8, at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.
In the fall of 1991 at a football game in Laramie, the team members were given a plaque commemorating their win. The three women were back at UW in 2001 for an alumni gathering and were recognized at that time. Along with a special CNFR ring, denoting their specific sport, which they were given at the time of the big win, the women enjoyed these highlights and recognition. Now it will be even better as they attend this momentous event.
Olson graduated from Wheatland High School and attended UW all during college. She graduated in 1992 with a degree in Business Administration. Scholarships and her love of the sport of rodeo played a big part in both her attendance at UW and the 120 points she contributed to the win. Her father was a team roper on the men's team back in 1961 but didn't get to participate at the National Finals due to his mother's health concerns. But he contributed to getting the team to the finals and it seems that Olson learned from her dad's tenacity.
"One of the most special things was moving down that alleyway in the Fieldhouse (at Montana State in Bozeman where the College Rodeo National Finals was held), hearing the noise," said Olson of the memory. "It was something I will never forget."
Howell took a round-about route to UW and the finals. She first attended Central Wyoming College at Riverton, where she earned an associate of arts degree, as well as a win at the Central Rocky Mountain Region Finals. She then headed south for two years to Stephenville,Tex., where she attended Tarleton State and pursued an education degree and was awarded a Presidential Academic Scholarship. In total she qualified and competed at the CNFR four times.
With 10 rodeos per season both women felt that their rodeo family was a special part of getting them to the CNFR. "Patti and T.R. Stalley came to be very special friends," said Howell. She also noted that coaches Pete Burns and Danny Dunlavy were instrumental in her rodeo career.
And rodeo is in the blood it seems, as Howell's daughter, Brooke and Olson's son, Tyus, ended up paired at the CFNR in Casper this past year after having placed fourth in their respective team roping events.
"Having Brooke and Tyus rope together was almost as special as being in the CNFR myself," said Olson.
In 1990 UW's women's team won the CNFR title. They were led by Jimmi Jo Martin, who was instrumental in racking up nearly every point. Naysayers said it couldn't happen again, but these three women proved them wrong. The three women, Howell, Olson and Shepard, helped the Wyoming women's team repeat as regional champs and were the reason Wyoming repeated as women's national champs.
"It was really special because all of us contributed," said Howell. "That wasn't usually the case."
In the press release submitted by the University of Wyoming, the statement read, "Coached by Pete Burns and Danny Dunlavy, the Cowgirls won their second consecutive College National Finals Rodeo Championship in 1991 with a total team effort. All three members of the team were from Wyoming and all contributed to the victory. Toni Christinck Olson won one go-round in the goat tying and made the short-go in barrels and goats. Shanna Newland Howell won the first go-round in the breakaway roping and qualified as one of the top ten finalists in goat tying. Lori Rhodes Shepard won the average of the CNFR and a short-go in goat tying." The combined points gave these three women the CNFR Championship with 480 points.
Both women plan, with their families, to attend the Hall of Fame event in September.