Saddle up for the season: FHSU Rodeo 2018-2019

Artile Photo

By Makenna Allen
Littleton, Colo., freshman, Fort Hays State University
Gates clang and metal clatters as clods of dirt spatter against the rails. The humid fall air is penetrated only by the whinnies of horses tied to trailers. At Fort Hays State University, these sights and sounds can mean but one thing: It’s rodeo season.

Indeed, the rodeo team’s practices are well underway and the student athletes are learning the ropes and routine of daily life as a part of the Fort Hays State University Rodeo Team. New students and returning athletes alike are prepared to jump in, ready to learn from Head Coach Bronc Rumford and Assistant Coach Ross Russell.

“This is my first year,” said Coldwater junior and team roper Tanner Kay. “I’ve always grown up around rodeo, so when I came here I decided to try it out.”

Other new team members, like breakaway roper Larae Boaldin, Garden City junior, are transfer students from other schools where they also rodeoed.

“Through rodeo, being on the team at Garden, I knew Hays had a program and I contacted Bronc,” Boaldin said.

Even returning team members are looking to expand their knowledge when it comes to rodeo and life.

“Spending time with Bronc and Ross, the coaches, has been such an important part in my life, especially learning from Bronc about rodeo and about life in general,” said team roper Zeke Hall, Peyton, Colo., senior.

The coaches also hold a variety of goals for the team.

“We are expecting some qualifiers to the College National Finals, personal improvement each week, and a team GPA of 3.0 to name a few,” Rumford said.

The goal of academic achievement allows the program’s benefits to extend beyond success in the arena. Indeed, managing time in order to fit practice and rodeos into a busy student schedule requires students to develop a sense of balance and the ability to prioritize necessary tasks.

“Balancing schoolwork and rodeo, I struggled at first because you want to spend as much time as you can out here, roping and competing and trying to get better,” Hall said. “It can sometimes take away from schoolwork, so just staying focused and making sure my priorities are in the right place and just taking care of business.”

Boaldin also strives towards success in academics.

“It’s definitely difficult, but I just make sure I’m home at a good time to do my homework but I make sure that I get to practice every day,” Boaldin said.

Outside of these practical skills, being a member of the team holds even more value for students. For them, rodeo is a chance to form new relationships that develop during long hauls to rodeos and during overnight stays in small hotel rooms.

“Really, it’s a way to meet new people and have some fun,” said calf roper and team roper Colton Wagner, Paola junior.

Even as this family atmosphere begins to form, the coaches hope for success within the arena.

“This year we’re really young, so we’re going to try to build them up,” Russell said. “Next year would be a stretch to win a national championship but here in the next three or four years, we’re going to have a chance.”

This fall season provides multiple opportunities to work towards these goals as the team has already competed at Colby Community College, Southeastern State University, and Oklahoma State University.

Rumford highlights the successes so far of Coleman Kirby, Richfield senior, in bull riding and Travis Booth, Castle Rock, Colo., junior, in steer wrestling. Barrel racer Roxanna Clawson, Great Bend junior, finished as one of the top 15 competitors at two rodeos this season.

The team looks to continue this success into their final rodeo of the fall season through the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. The rodeo at Northwestern Oklahoma State University is scheduled for Oct. 25 in Alva, Oklahoma.

As the team travels out of state, members seek support from sponsors and donors to help build the program and to help the team find success in the upcoming season.

“That’s everything to our rodeo – sponsors. We get very little money from anybody else. It’s the town that we rely on to be able to have a rodeo,” Russell said.

Rumford stresses how sponsors have made it possible for students to discover and ultimately realize their dreams. For Hall, this is possibly the most important role of the rodeo club in students’ lives.

“It’s taught me that anything is possible. Before I came here, I didn’t really rope or anything,” Hall said. “It’s just taught me that if you have something in mind that you want to do, if you have a goal, if you have a dream, then just put your head down and go do it and believe in yourself.”

Makenna Allen, Littleton, Colo., freshman, is majoring in information networking and telecommunications at Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kan.

Cutline: Bailey McCaughey, Eads, Colo., junior, practices breakaway roping with Assistant Coach Ross Russell. Photo by Makenna Allen

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