Story by Bryan Edwards, Contributing writer
After a difficult 2015 campaign, the Murray State Rodeo Team will be coming for the prize in the 2016 season. The William “Bill” Cherry Agricultural Exposition Center will be home to the Murray State rodeo team yet again. Murray State finished eighth in both men’s and women’s competition last year and look to perform better.
Youth plays a big part in this year’s team, said head coach J. D. Van Hooser. With 50 total members, Van Hooser says that 25 of them are freshmen. In his 14th season as coach of the Rodeo Team, Van Hooser gave a brief preview of what events the team will be competing in.
“The team will be competing in ten events this year.”Van Hooser said. “The men will be playing in six, the women will play 4.”
The Racers compete in the Ozark region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), alongside Tennessee-Martin and Missouri Valley College They will be competing in events like bull riding for the men and breakaway calf roping for the women. Both teams will also compete in a team roping competition.
Van Hooser believes that despite inexperience, the team will meet the expectations that they have set for this season.
“I think that we will be in good shape for the season,” Van Hooser said. “There are a lot of young, talented people on that team that can really make an impact.”
The Rodeo Team mostly travels to their events throughout the season, but have been granted an opportunity to host an event at the Expo Center in Murray. Starting on Oct. 13, Murray State will host the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association rodeo competition. The event will last four days and will conclude on Oct. 16.
When the team isn’t traveling to competitions around the country, they stick to a heavy practice schedule. Van Hooser said the team practices three to five days every week, with the practices lasting up to six hours. The team stays very busy in the afternoon, developing the younger members and tuning up their skills to prepare for the rigorous season that they have in front of them.
The Rodeo Team will be depending on performances from their returning veterans, as well as breakthrough performances from their young pool of freshmen that will lead the team into the future. The Murray State Rodeo Team will round up the Ozark Region competition on Oct. 13-16 at the Expo Center.