CASPER, Wyo. — While the Cal Poly Rodeo program has been continuously growing for the past few years, the 2016-2017 school year marked history in more ways than one.
On May 7, at the West Coast Region year end awards banquet held in Las Vegas, it was announced that this year’s Poly Royal Rodeo was named the College Rodeo of the Year for the West Coast Region. This year’s rodeo was, for the first time ever, held in Spanos Football Stadium, making it the largest collegiate rodeo in the nation.
“The Cal Poly Rodeo program has been building momentum for the last three years,” Londo said. “It’s always been a well known program, but now it’s on everybody’s radar.”
While the award undoubtedly represents a testament to the hard work and dedication of the rodeo coach Ben Londo and the countless rodeo boosters, it highlights the efforts of the student athletes most.
After all, it is those athletes who compete all season long in hopes of qualifying for the year end College National Finals Rodeo.
“The caliber of our rodeo athletes continues to grow each year,” Londo said.
This year, six Cal Poly rodeo athletes qualified for and and traveled across the country to compete at the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo against rodeo athletes from 11 different intercollegiate regions within the United States, he added.
The student athletes included first year extended education student Aaron Williams, from Norco (who competed in bull riding), bioresource and agricultural engineering sophomore Chase Onaka, from Kona, HW (who competed in team roping), bioresource and agricultural engineering senior Colton Farquer from Oakdale (who competed in tie-down roping), agricultural communications senior Katie Rice from Clements (who competed in breakaway and goat-tying), nutrition freshman Savannah Wirth from Auburn (who competed in barrel racing) and industrial technology and packaging senior Wade Brown from Norco (who competed in the bareback riding) made their way to the Casper Events Center for five nightly performances.
After a week of blood, sweat and tears against some of the nation’s stiffest competition, multiple Cal Poly rodeo athletes walked away sitting at or near the top ten of
Williams finished tenth in the bull riding, Farquer finished fourth in the tie-down roping, Onaka finished third in the team roping and Rice finished eleventh in the goat-tying.
Not only that, but two of those students were also recognized with two other separate awards.
Although Farquer had a few tough calves, he and his horse made the best of their time in Casper and together managed to place in two out of the four go-rounds. Farquer’s horse was named Men’s Horse of the Year.
“This year was my best finish and a great way to end my career in college rodeo,” Farquer said.
Farquer shared this second spotlight with teammate Katie Rice, who won the Walt Garrison Award.
The Walt Garrison award, established in the honor of former Dallas Cowboy’s football star and professional cowboy Walt Garrison, recognizes qualities — such as loyalty, honesty and commitment — that depict a true overall cowboy or cowgirl.
Rice, who has been nominated for the award for four consecutive years, has been heavily involved with the rodeo program since the start of her collegiate career. Not only did she finish of this year as team captain, but she also spent the last three operating as the regional breakaway director, too.
“It’s not everyday that you have a student that is as talented, dedicated and helpful to their entire time (the way) Katie is,” Londo said. “I lucked out to get her my first year (here), and assume it’s rare to get a person like that (to begin with.)”
The $2,500 scholarship award, presented to Rice during Tuesday’s evening performance, will be put toward her Master’s degree in Agricultural Education, Rice said.
The CNFR features more than 400 cowboys and cowgirls from more than 100 different universities and colleges. Because of its size and the caliber of those competing, those who do qualify have without a doubt, earned their way to the top. Needless to say, the Cal Poly Rodeo program could not be anymore proud of all of its participants and looks forward to continuing down the same direction in all of the years to come.