It is not often that freshmen stand out in a sport. However, for the Fort Hays State University Rodeo Team, such is the case. At each of the four fall college rodeos the team has competed in this year, a freshman has qualified for the final round.
In fact, the only two FHSU rodeo team members currently ranked in the region, Blair Jones, Monte Vista, Colo., and Cole Pearson, Clearwater, are freshmen.
These two cowboys and the rest of the Fort Hays State University Rodeo Team competed at the last rodeo of the fall at the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Rodeo in Alva, Nov. 5-7.
The rodeo included 708 total entries in nine events, and with this being the final fall rodeo, many competitors were fighting to finish the first half of the 2009-2010 rodeo season on a high note.
Yet another FHSU rodeo team freshman standout, Gage Blair, Andover, rose to the top in team roping, which, with 116 teams competing, was second in numbers only to the girls’ breakaway roping.
Blair and his partner Clancy Bowser from Coffeyville Community College qualified for the short round with a time of 6.3 seconds, which sat the team in third place going into the finals. This was the duo’s first short-go showing this season. For Blair and Bowser, everything seemed to fall into place.
“My horse worked great, I stole out, and it felt good,” Blair said.
Although they stopped the clock in 7.2 seconds in the short-go, Blair failed to give the steer a head start and broke the barrier coming out of the box, making that time a 17.2.
Had the team come out clean, it would have ended up third in the average. Instead, the two cowboys finished eighth with a 23.5 on two head.
Out of 116 teams, being in the top ten is nothing to be ashamed of.
As for the rest of the FHSU Rodeo Team, it was the small things that kept them from making the short-go.
There are no second chances in rodeo. In a performance, competitors can’t go back and fix their mistakes. Within seconds, these cowboys and cowgirls must do the best they can with the conditions they’re in and the stock they’ve drawn.
Take for example Brule, Neb., junior Jennifer Sherman, who stopped the clock in 3.1 seconds in the breakaway. She had a slow calf, so it took longer for her rope to break away from her horn. The last qualifying time to make it to the short-go was a 2.8.
Kadie Hays, Phillipsburg freshman, roped her calf in 3.3 seconds, but her broken barrier added 10 seconds to her time.
Head coach Bronc Rumford felt that many team members let the pressure of the rodeo get to them and stressed the importance of treating practice and a rodeo equally.
“We need to learn how to practice with the same intensity and focus as we have when we get to the rodeo,” Rumford said.
Senior Cody Pratt, Monte Vista, Colo., expanded on the significance of mentally preparing oneself before a rodeo.
“It’s also important to prepare yourself mentally long before going into the arena,” Pratt said. “If you’re taking time to think about what’s happening in the arena, you’re adding time to your run, whereas if you think about all of that before going into the arena, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s all reaction.”
Now that the fall season has concluded, the FHSU men’s team currently sits 12th in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Central Plains Region standings.
Jones, after a tough draw in Alva, was knocked from first to fourth in the steer wrestling regional standings. Pearson is still in the regional standings from his showing in Colby earlier this season, tied for 11th as a team roping header.
The team will not compete again until the Kansas State University’s rodeo in February.
For current NIRA standings and results, visit www.collegerodeo.com, and for more information on the FHSU Rodeo Team, visit www.fhsu.edu/rodeo.