Former MPCC bull rider to rejoin team as assistant coach |

Former MPCC bull rider to rejoin team as assistant coach

Former MPCC bull rider to rejoin team as assistant coach

The Mid-Plains Community College rodeo team will have a new assistant coach beginning this summer.

Aukai Kaai, a former bull rider for the team, has been transitioning into the role for the past several months. He will officially take over the assistant title July 1, after the current rodeo season is over, and will work primarily with the team’s roughstock competitors.

“It feels awesome to be able to give back to the program that opened so many doors for me,” Kaai said. “After Mid-Plains, I transferred to a university. Altogether, I did five years of college and got all my school paid for because of rodeo. I’m looking forward to helping others succeed through rodeo as well.”

Up to this point, the team has been led by Garrett Nokes, timed event coach, and Dustin Elliott, roughstock coach. Kaai will take over much of Elliott’s responsibilities as Elliott steps back into more of a volunteer role.

“I’ve come to a point where I have to minimize obligations to free up time for other things,” Elliott said. “My kids are my priority right now, and they just keep getting busier. I’ve also accepted the head wrestling coach position at Hershey Public Schools.”

Although he might not go to every rodeo, Elliott will still be at the MPCC Stampede in the fall and will be available to offer advice and assistance to Kaai if needed.

He thinks Kaai is a good fit for the role of assistant coach.

“Aukai is a little bit closer to the age of the kids that we need to try to get here,” Elliott said. “He’s going to bring some energy to the program and was a good bull rider, himself. He also has an in with securing bulls to practice on and that’s a huge element to the program. I think a young, enthusiastic mentality will be good.”

Nokes is excited about the venture, too.

“I’m sure looking forward to working with Aukai,” Nokes said. “Over the years, he was one of my favorite kids. We kept in contact some after he graduated, and when he moved back to Nebraska, I was hoping he could be involved with the team again. I think this is good timing for everybody and a good opportunity for him. I’m really pumped about Aukai being part of the program.”


Kaai is originally from Waimānalo, Hawaii. The four-time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier and three-time state champion was recruited by Elliott in 2014. Kaai competed for MPCC from 2014-16 in both the bull riding and team roping events.

While at Mid-Plains, he finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Great Plains Region bull riding standings.

“The quality of coaching and the scholarships I was offered to rodeo were the deciding factors in me coming to MPCC as a student,” Kaai said. “Once I got here, I learned a lot about the business side of rodeo and how to be presentable.”

Kaai went on to rodeo for Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colo., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. As of last year, he also had a pro card. He hopes to continue competing professionally, but for now, that has taken a backseat to buying his own bucking bulls.

“I have a couple right now I’ve been letting the MPCC rodeo team use,” Kaai said. “I’ve basically just been helping the guys learn fundamentals up to this point.”

He is, however, already starting to think about recruits. Kaai has his sights set on a few roughstock riders that he either knows from the past or found through social media.

Hostetler recives Northern Colorado Titan Award

AGPROfessionals, the Northern Colorado Commercial Association of Realtors, and First Bank would like to congratulate Managing Broker Ryan Hostetler on receiving the Northern Colorado Titan Award. First place for highest land sales in Colorado. This award recognizes elite commercial real estate brokers who have achieved the highest production levels in various commercial real estate categories. Hostetler also placed in the Top 3 for total sales volume in all categories.

He was also recognized as an APEX 2019 Top Twenty National Producer by the Realtors Land Institute as a part of the RLI APEX Production Awards Program, sponsored by The Land Report. This year’s competition had 105 applicants totaling a combined $2.65-plus billion in qualifying transaction volume and 3,535 sides represented.

Link honored as unsung hero of plant biology

Samantha Link, research manager for plant science in the Agricultural Research Division in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recently recognized as an unsung hero of plant biology by the American Society of Plant Biologists.

The program recognizes important members of the science community who are the non-tenure track scientists. Link, the greenhouse manager at the Beadle Center greenhouse, was chosen for the critical role she plays in scientific breakthroughs and discoveries every single day.

The state-of-the-art greenhouse complex at the Beadle Center one of many plant growth facilities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which also includes the Nebraska Innovation Campus greenhouse and multiple greenhouse clusters on East Campus. Link manages the Beadle Center greenhouses with the help of a full-time assistant, a part-time technician, and three student workers.

Link grew up in Ravenna, Neb., and obtained her bachelor’s degree in horticulture–landscape design from Nebraska in 1996. During her undergraduate years, she was a student worker for the horticulture greenhouses at the East Campus. Link started working at the Beadle Center greenhouses in 1998 and became the greenhouse manager in 2015.

The Beadle Center greenhouses encompass 14,500 square feet of floor space and provide and care for plants for nearly 25 labs from multiple departments. The greenhouses also maintain plants for many of the teaching labs for introductory biology, botany and life science classes that emphasize plants in their coursework. The Beadle Center Greenhouses also have an extensive collection of preserved plant material used for taxonomy, systematics and plant diversity classes.

Link is passionate about plants and enjoys seeing plants begin from a seed and grow to maturity. She strives to predict issues related to plant growth and to plan ahead to avoid plant loss. As she noted, “Plants are not always predictable. In many ways, you can count on them to not be predictable; they don’t always do what you want them to.” Being consistent with protocols for soil type, planting procedures, and sanitization helps Link stay ahead of the game.

Link’s efforts are often acknowledged in students’ graduate seminars, and her greatest satisfaction is when graduating students stop by her office or leave heartfelt notes conveying their gratitude. “It’s an awesome feeling. I have kept many of those notes as they remind me that I am appreciated for my work!”

Rebecca Roston, associate professor of biochemistry at the Beadle Center, acknowledged Samantha’s assistance with her lab’s plant growth needs.

“Every time we have a lab-planting crisis (e.g., everyone decides Friday is a good day to plant, we suddenly need a chamber that can have an eight-hour day, we need a reverse-cycling chamber to avoid being in the lab at 2 a.m.), Sam is there. She is calm and practical and often helps us with temporary growth space,” Roston said. “Even when that is impossible, she helps talk people through their options and makes sure they know their academic life isn’t over. She’s on all the researchers’ sides, and it is very appreciated. Finally, on a personal note, I enjoy having conversations with her and nerding out about plants!”

Outside of work, Link has many hobbies, including caring for plants. She has houseplants, and quite a bit of her yard is dedicated to gardening. “I do enjoy growing plants — even off the clock!”