Rodeo grabs bull by the horns at SDSU

Erin Beck

With the first competitions taking place on Sept. 14 and 15, an agriculturally-rooted sport at SDSU is off to a roaring start. For 55 students on campus, it’s time to buckle down and rodeo.

At the head of the rodeo team is Ron Skovly. In his fourth year at SDSU, Skovly commits his time to coaching students and managing the logistics for team practice, livestock, competitions and road travel.

Rodeo, like any collegiate sport, is highly comppetitive. Two years of prior rodeo experience are required before an athlete can join the team.

“They’re all advanced at the college level,” Skovly said.

Skovly has high expectations for the rodeo team as they head into the season. The men’s team stands as the defending regional Great Plains Team Champions while the women’s team is the Reserve Champions Team.

“The weather’s been holding up great,” Skovly said. “We’re ready to go.”

A typical year of rodeo consists of two seasons. The fall semester houses four rodeos with the season ending in October. When the end of March rolls around, the rodeo season cranks back up with six more competitions, giving team members a total of ten rodeos to compete in.

The sport of rodeo consists of nine events at the college level. The men’s events include saddle bronc riding, barevback racing, bull riding, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Team roping events, witwh men and women competing together as a team, involve both heading and heeling. The womven’s events include barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.

Although SDSU has held double rodeos in the past, this year the rodeo team is looking at hosting just a single rodeo in the spring. The team plans to combine its fundraiser with the rodeo.

With a team of 55 members, Skovly is charged with the task of choosing ten members to represent SDSU’s team. While everyone gets to travel and compete at rodeos across the region, the team of six men and four women that Skovly picks will be counted for the team standing at events, while everyone else racks up individual points. The top three competitors in each event will then go to the national finals held in Casper, Wyo.

“I’ve rodeoed my entire life,” said senior Meg McPadden. “One of my biggest goals has been to make it to the national finals. I finally made it last year. It was one of the most exciting things ever, being able to compete against the best college athletes in the nation.”

With a highly cvompetitive rodeo team that won Reserve Women’s Champions in 2010 and multiple world championships in individual events, Skovly shares the key to the rodeo program’s success. For the rodeo team, it all boils down to setting a schedule and sticking to it.

“Time management is huge for any college kid, let alone the team members that have chores to do,” Skovly said.

Team members are given a heavy responsibility when it comes to rodeo. With horses and livestock to tend, chores are a necessity morning and night. Transporting horses to and from the practice arena includes maintenance of a pickup and trailer. With all these time-consuming responsibilities on top of intensive practice, team members also have another commitment: being students.

“Not only does (Skovly) promote you to do well in rodeo, he’s very supportive of your schoolwork,” McPadden said. “He says school comes first, rodeo second.”

Skovly isn’t the only one supporting the rodeo program. Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture & Biological Sciences, also stresses the importance of the sport.

“It improves retention and graduation and performance,” Dunn said. “It gets students involved in the community in a very unique way and provides them an outlet for their athletic and social interactions. It has broad support across the university community.”

As a team member, senior agronomy major Trevor Hupp enjoys the stiff competition.

“I’ve done rodeo all my life,” Hupp said. “We’re pretty successful, so it’s a lot of fun. I’ve gained a lot of good friends.”

“My favorite thing is just the atmosphere,” said Justin Zwiesel, also a senior agronomy major. “It’s something besides doing school all the time. It’s good being outside.”