Kentucky’s oldest college rodeo is back at the William “Bill” Cherry Exposition Center
Story by Breanna Sill, Staff writer
Three hundred college students from across the United States kicked up the dust in the William “Bill” Cherry Agricultural Exposition Center last weekend at Murray State’s 40th Annual College Rodeo.
Students from 15 different colleges traveled to Murray to compete for cash prizes and belt buckles in events like bullfighting, goat tying, barrel racing, bull riding, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, breakaway roping, steer wrestling and team roping.
The Murray State Rodeo Club is responsible for putting together the event.
“The Rodeo Club does it, parents show up to help and we have a large number of people who show up who just love rodeo and want to help put it together,” said Dwayne Driskill, rodeo club adviser.
Murray State rodeo team members who compete in the annual College Rodeo practice year round for the opportunity to represent their school not only at the Murray State rodeo, but at rodeos across the country.
“Our team members keep their horses on campus and we practice at least four days a week for different events of rodeo,” said JD Vanhooser, rodeo team coach. “We always try to cover it all during the week when we aren’t gone during the weekends at different rodeos.”
Mallory Shiplett, senior from Carbondale, Illinois, and Murray State rodeo team member agreed with Vanhooser and said that she sometimes practices barrel racing until midnight to prepare for rodeos.
“We practice a lot, everyone practices a lot,” she said. “Sometimes we are out there until midnight or sometimes later getting our horses ready and getting ourselves ready. A lot of it is mental too, just remembering something as small as taking a deep breath before entering the tunnel.”
For someone who has never attended a college rodeo, Driskill said they are missing something that is far from sub-par.
“We put on one of the best rodeos around,” he said. “A lot of the coaches from other schools around tell us that we have one of the best rodeos around.”
This year, the rodeo had a special visitor when Roger Walters, National Commissioner for College Rodeo, made an appearance to see what kind of competition Murray State could bring to the rodeo community.
Rogers represents the 11 regions of college rodeo within the United States. He said Murray State’s rodeo was his fifth region stop since the beginning of September and he was far from disappointed.
“I think (the Murray State rodeo team) does an excellent job and I’m not just saying that because I’m here right now,” Rogers said. “Where I’ve been so far this year, this is by far the best rodeo.”
Rogers credits that accomplishment to the students, rodeo coaches and the university.
“This is a great region, but it takes a lot of work to put on a college rodeo,” he said.
“When you look at a lot of these students they are working in any and many different capacities.”
Every year, the rodeo team invites everyone in attendance, competitors or spectators, to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. To Shiplett, this is a way to show respect for her fellow teammates who might know of someone battling the illness.
“We all wear pink to spread the word and get recognized,” Shiplett said. “We do have some people on the team who have mothers or aunts who have survived or are going through breast cancer right now and it is just our way to show support for them.”
Zachary Schlemper, junior from Pacific, Missouri, is a saddle-bronc rider for Murray State. He said the rodeo team was a large part of why he chose to come to school Murray State.
“It’s like a starting round for a lot of young up-and-coming champions at Murray State,” Schlemper said. “It’s all kinds of people who come from all different kinds of backgrounds who want to learn how to rodeo or are already rodeoing. I am very grateful for what Murray State has done.”
Shiplett said she would compare the rodeo community, who comes together at college rodeos across the country, to a second family.
“Rodeo is a way of life for a lot of these people, especially for me,” she said. “It just means coming together with a group of people who have the same interest and sharing in something that we all love and that God has given us the ability to do.”