At the start of the 2009-2010 school year, the Fort Hays State University rodeo team hadn’t even competed at a rodeo. Yet, they had already broken a record.
With 39 members this year, the team has almost tripled its size from last year’s 14.
According to Dr. Garry Brower, FHSU rodeo team advisor and associate professor of agriculture, the largest team FHSU ever had prior to the 2009-2010 school year was 24 members, and that was 10 to 20 years ago.
Assistant coach Ross Russell wasn’t kidding when he said, “the team is larger than it has ever been before.”
“We have been doing a lot of recruiting out of state in places like Colorado, Nebraska, and Nevada,” Russell said.
And the individuals on the team are not just good athletes. They work hard academically, too.
“We recruited not only for students’ performance in the arena, but also performance in the classroom,” Russell said.
Along with a class valedictorian, the team also has many organizational leaders.
Cody Kiser, Augusta junior and rodeo team president, is also Student Government Association treasurer for the 2009-2010 school year. Cody Pratt, Monte Vista, Colo., junior, earned the position of National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Central Plains Region Student Director -- a position that puts him in charge of the region’s rodeos. Another leader is Haley Wilkison, Colorado Springs, Colo., freshman, who is the legislative affairs director for SGA. Kadie Hays, Phillipsburg freshman, who also recently joined SGA as a senator, served as the 2008-2009 Kansas High School Rodeo Association student president.
Besides academic success, many team members have also had great success in the rodeo arena.
Kiser qualified for and competed in bull riding at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2007. The PRCA Prairie Circuit consists of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and only the top 12 contestants in each event compete at the finals.
Unfortunately, Kiser won’t be able to compete this semester after deciding to have much-needed surgeries on his wrist and shoulder this summer. Last spring, he tore the cartilage in his wrist at Kansas State University’s college rodeo, and back in high school, he tore the labrum in his shoulder.
The shoulder, he said, is something that should have been fixed back in high school.
However, being out of the game doesn’t mean Kiser doesn’t get to participate in some way.
“I enjoy helping the younger guys, and in a way it’s like practice for me,” Kiser said.
Still, helping at practice and watching the rodeos just isn’t the same as being on the road riding bulls.
“Missing these rodeos sure ain’t any fun,” Kiser said. “I wish I was going down the road. I miss it awful bad ... but it will make it that much better when I come back. I’ll be craving it and wanting it for the right reasons.”
Kiser hopes to return for the spring semester.
Another success story is Blair Jones, Monte Vista, Colo., freshman, who finished fifth in the team roping at the National High School Finals Rodeo this July. Jones hopes to make the College National Finals Rodeo in the spring and “help the rodeo team out as much as possible.”
FHSU hasn’t had a team member qualify for the CNFR since 2007 with Travis Camac and Brooke Inlow.
Back in 1974, current FHSU Rodeo Coach Bronc Rumford finished third in the bareback riding and fifth in the all-around standings at the CNFR when he was competing on FHSU’s rodeo team.
Team members get their chance to move up in the region standings this fall
The fall schedule of NIRA rodeos includes Colby Community College (Sept. 18-20), Pratt Community College (Oct. 2-4), Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Oct. 8-10), and Northwestern Oklahoma State University (Nov. 5-7).
With a team full of students who succeed both in and out of the arena, FHSU has a chance to be a strong contender in the Central Plains Region.
“With the numbers and quality of people on the team, I think we will be a force in the region. I think it’s going to be a great and exciting year for the team,” Kiser said.