Each rodeo has its own personality depending on the location, weather, stock and participants. One thing holds true throughout though: Each and every person involved has dedicated endless hours to the sport.
Fort Hays State University rodeo team members will take their dedication to the ultimate test in the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 35th FHSU Rodeo, April 28-30. Ticket prices are $5 in advance for adults; $4 in advance for FHSU students and high school students (with an ID); $7 at the gate, and free for children under 6 years of age. Students in grades K-8 will receive one complimentary ticket. You may purchase advance tickets at the Student Service Center in the FHSU Memorial Union, or at Orscheln's or Vanderbilt's in Hays.
Rodeo team members don't have time to think about much else except rodeo these days. When hosting the event at home, individuals not only have to prepare themselves for their events, but they have to get the facilities and livestock ready.
Freshman Cody Leitner, Herndon, said there is much more work involved for a home rodeo than any rodeo on the road. "We have to make sure the arena is ready and the grounds are cleaned. Everything has to be in tip-top condition. We also have to help get the stock ready and take care of it all weekend."
Horses, sheep, bulls and calves are brought in by a stock holder for the weekend. Once the stock is left off, the home team is in charge of making sure it is ready for competition. Stock for the FHSU rodeo is provided by FHSU alumni Bronc Rumford and the Rumford Rodeo Company.
Individual events remain the same at every rodeo. Participants on the men's side compete in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and bull riding. Women compete in barrel racing, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping.
Preparations for the FHSU rodeo began in November and December when the team started raising money for the event. Members helped get local and area sponsors and even sponsors from their hometowns. The money buys programs, tickets and contracting with Rumford for the use of stock.
Hours upon hours of preparation is nothing new for these people. Most rodeo personalities have done the sport since they were very young.
"I've been doing rodeo for as long as I can remember," said Katie White, Little River sophomore. Andi Riddle, Benton senior, echoed the same sentiments.
"I've been riding for most of my life. I decided when I came to college I wanted to keep doing it." Leitner, White and Riddle all said they decided to go to school at Hays partially because of the rodeo team.
Despite the hard work, few rewards are involved for participants. They must depend on themselves and their personal triumphs along with their team members to get them through. In the long run, the lows are usually outweighed by the highs.
"We get to travel to a lot of different places and meet a lot of people. It's just a good experience," said Riddle. "You get to know so many people and travel lots of places and just getting to represent the university is a good part," said Leitner
Throughout the spring they are constantly reminded of the work involved in the sport. Most of the rodeos start around noon on the first day and end late on the final day. This year, three of the rodeos took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday dates while four went throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This kind of hectic schedule causes the team members to miss a lot of classes. "It keeps you away from your schoolwork and you have to make sure you keep up," said Riddle.
Leitner said that rodeo takes a lot of time, especially for a college student. Along with personal preparation, the team practices a different set of events from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night.
"With practice and all the work that has to be done at the arena along with classes, you don't have much time for other stuff," said Leitner.
FHSU is a member of the Central Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). The region contains 23 teams from Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Teams come from schools of all sizes including universities, colleges and junior colleges.
The 2000 season schedule was comprised of seven rodeos, including past dates at Kansas State University, Feb. 25-27; Fort Scott Community College, Mar. 10-12; and Panhandle State University, Mar. 31-April 2. Upcoming dates include Southwestern Oklahoma State University, April 6-8; Garden City Community College, April 14-16; Dodge City Community College, April 20-22; and FHSU.
Following the FHSU rodeo, national qualifiers will be determined. The top two individuals in the region in each event and the top two teams according to ranking qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR). At the CNFR, which will be held the second week of June in Gillette, WY., qualifiers from each of the 11 regions will compete for the individual and team championships.
At the regional level, individual first-place and second-place winners in each event receive awards. Champions are given a trophy saddle while the reserve champions get a plaque.
Winning at the national level brings not only accolades for the participants, but benefits for the participant's school. For example, the champion men's team champion receives $12,000 for its school while the reserve champion receives $6,000. On the individual level, prizes for the top four competitors total around $20,000. Money is generally put toward scholarships.
"If someone from FHSU woud win and they were coming back to school the next year, they would get the money for scholarships. If they were not coming back, it would go for someone else on the team," said Dr. Garry Brower, rodeo team sponsor.
FHSU Rodeo Team members include:
BENTON: Andi Riddle, senior.
BROOKVILLE: Colter Dent, sophomore.
CAMBRIDGE: Brady Bartel, junior.
CIMARRON: Ryan Day, sophomore.
COLDWATER: Scott Swayze, senior.
ELLIS: Jayson Sneath, senior.
ELLSWORTH: Daric Donley, sophomore.
GARDEN CITY: Trevor Nash, senior.
HAYS: Sadye Flynn, junior; Matt Jarvis, junior.
HERNDON: Cody Leitner, freshman.
HOYT: Jamie Mulanax, freshman.
JEWELL: Levi Taylor, junior.
KIRWIN: Shane Mullen, junior.
LITTLE RIVER: Katie White, sophomore.
LINDSBORG: Brad Smith, sophomore.
QUINTER: Dustin Quint, senior.
ST. FRANCIS: Brad Brent, junior.
SCOTT CITY: Ross "Spud" Pratt, junior.
WINONA: Kris Kirk, senior.
VALLEY FALLS: Quinley Oliphant, junior.
CHEYENNE WELLS, CO: John Engelrecht, senior.
ATKINSON, NE: Amy Boettcher, junior.
HYANNIS, NE: Jessie Knott, freshman.