HAYS, Kan. – The future of rodeo is among us, and it’s coming to northwest Kansas for the annual Fort Hays State University Rodeo.
The college’s rodeo club will host the event, part of the Central Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. It’s one of the toughest circuits in college rodeo, and the FHSU rodeo team has been part of it for decades.
FHSU cowboys and cowgirls will test their mettle against some of the top hands in college rodeo during the four performances scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 15; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16; and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 17 at Doug Phillip Arena. How tough will the competition be?
This is where Bronc Rumford was an all-around winner before a he became a professional champion, then the program’s coach. It’s where Lyle Sankey developed his talents before qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo in all three roughstock events, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
It’s where Jule Hazen fine-tuned his steer wrestling talents before a career that’s seen him qualify twice for the NFR. It’s where Jerry Beagley rode bulls and Kevin Rich fought them. It’s where Dr. Garry Brower has coached great student athletes and built a legacy that he’s handed off to Rumford.
“We’ve had some great athletes that have been part of our program over the years,” Rumford said. “They know they’re going to be tested every week. A real cowboy knows the challenges he faces, and he wants to tackle them head-on.”
The rodeo will feature more than 550 contestants from 27 schools in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The reigning women’s all-around and breakaway roping national champion is scheduled to be part of the 2011 competition at Doug Phillip Arena. Jordan Muncy-Taton is a senior at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, and she helped her team to a third-place finish in the College National Finals Rodeo last June.
The Fort Hays State men’s team is led by Cody Pratt, who is third in the circuit’s steer wrestling standings. He’ll need a strong showing to close out the rodeo season if he’s going to qualify for the CNFR. Troy Crowser of Panhandle State won the Resistol Saddle Bronc Riding Rookie of the Year award last year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association – unlike other professional sports, collegians can compete in ProRodeo while maintaining there eligibility.
But the history of great rodeo in the Central Plains Region runs deep. Just look at the 1990s, where a team from the circuit made up of rodeos primarily in Kansas and Oklahoma won the college championship from 1992-2001.
“This always has been a tough region, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Rumford said. “That’s what makes coming to this rodeo so much fun, because you’re going to see the best kids in the country.”