– Samantha Tenpenny
***The writer is enrolled in Comm 240 News Reporting.***
Despite wintry conditions in Garden City, Fort Hays State University Rodeo Team members rode into the short round.
Jacob Willems, Marquette sophomore, and Tennille Ouellette, Yoder, Colo. junior, both placed high enough in the long round of Garden City Community College’s National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association event, held Feb. 28-March 2, to qualify for the short round in their respective events.
On the men’s side, Willems placed third in the average after combining his score of 67, good enough for a third-place finish in the long round, with his 69-point ride that landed him second in the short round.
Representing the women’s team, Ouellette made a 6.9 second run in the goat tying to place ninth in the long round before tying her second goat in 7.5 seconds, landing her 10th in the
The competition wasn’t the only thing Willems, Ouellette and the rest of the FHSU Rodeo Team had to battle. Saturday morning, March 1, contestants woke up to a dusting of snow. By the end of the morning’s slack session, the wind had picked up immensely, conditions had worsened and the temperature had dropped to below freezing. As with any sport, rodeo athletes must keep warm and stay loose prior to competition. With two inches of snow on the ground and a below-zero wind chill, staying warm was no easy task.
“Being a bareback rider, I didn’t have it too bad,” Willems said. “Unlike the timed event guys, I never had to go outside to get ready, so that was nice. I just made sure I stayed moving and tried to keep loose.”
Ouellette was fortunate enough to draw up Friday morning, Feb. 28, during the first slack session when the weather was ideal. However, she too had to compete in chilly conditions.
“They moved the short-go up to 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 2, because it was so nasty out. It wasn’t quite as bad as Saturday, March 1, night’s performance, but it was still miserably cold with snow on the ground. That’s part of it [rodeo], though. Rain, sleet, or snow, we still compete,” Ouellette said.
Both Willems and Ouellette also competed in the Kansas State University Rodeo and the Ft. Scott Rodeo.
After qualifying for the short round Feb. 23 at the Kansas State University NIRA Rodeo and March 9 at the Ft. Scott Community College NIRA Rodeo, Willems said he plans to use his positive momentum as the team continues into the spring season.
“I’ve made it back the last three weekends. I’m covering my horses, riding correctly and getting more confident. I just want to stay positive and healthy and see what I can get done,” Willems said.
He has jumped to third in the regional standings with 136 points and is trailing the leader by less than 20 points with four rodeos left. So a trip to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., this summer is a very real possibility for the FHSU bareback rider.
The next competition for the FHSU Rodeo Team will be at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University rodeo, scheduled for April 3-4 in Durant, Okla.