The Fort Hays State University rodeo is one of the last on the season circuit for the Central Plains Region making events are sometimes even more competitive than usual as student athletes try to garner enough points to qualify for this summer’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

Fans will get a chance to see some of that competitive spirit at the 49th annual FHSU rodeo this weekend when nearly 500 student athletes from 27 different colleges from across Kansas and Oklahoma converge on the Doug Philip Arena, located on Golf Course Road, a half mile west of U.S. Highway 183 Alternate.

Times for each day are 7:30 p.m. for the Friday event, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Competitors accumulate points throughout the college season en route to advancing to the CNFR, the “Rose Bowl” of college rodeo. The final rodeo of the 10-event circuit is April 23-25 at Panhandle State University in Guymon, Okla.

Qualifiers for the nationals are the top four competitors in each individual event for each of the 11 regionals nationwide, as well as the top three teams from each region.

Following this past weekend’s rodeo at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, FHSU Coach Bronc Rumford said two Fort Hays State athletes are still ranked in the top 15 of their respective events and have a chance at qualifying for nationals. They are Windom sophomore Jacob Willems in bareback riding and Onaga sophomore Matthew Rezac in team roping header.

“We’re coming down to crunch time, so it makes this one really exciting,” Rumford said. “All those kids on the bubble are within reach of qualifying because the top 15 to 18 are within 100 points.”

However, ranked or not, Fort Hays State rodeo members are looking forward to competing at home, Rumford said.

“It’s like any sport, everybody likes to compete at home in front of friends and family,” he said. “With this being one of the last, and being able to have that home-arena advantage this late in the season, it makes it really exciting.”

Advance tickets are available until noon Friday at three locations in Hays — the service center in FHSU’s Memorial Union; Orscheln Farm & Home, 2900 Broadway Ave.; and Vanderbilt’s, 2704 Vine.

Ticket prices are $8 for adults per day in advance or $12 at the gate. Children are $5 in advance and $8 at the gate. FHSU students are admitted free with the Tiger ID card.

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