Rodeo Athletes Work Toward Master’s Degree

By: Jane Wood, agricultural communications major with minors in equine science and rangeland management

Two rodeo superstars who thought their college athletic careers were coming to an end in the spring of 2017 did not expect they would be entering a college rodeo again.

While competing at the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in June of last year, Katie Rice finished her Bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Cal Poly alongside Courtney Wood of Western Nevada College who finished her Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s Degree in agricultural business from Colorado State University. At the 2017 CNFR Rice competed in the breakaway roping and the goat tying while Wood was entered in the goat tying.

In the fall of 2017, they both came to Cal Poly to pursue a master’s degree for the following school year and as a result, they gained a 5th year of eligibility through the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). Why? The NIRA passed an amendment that states: “Upon acceptance into a Master’s program and competing for a fifth year of eligibility, a student must compete for the school from which they are receiving their Master’s degree.” This has allowed both Rice and Wood to compete for a fifth and final year for the Cal Poly Rodeo Team.

This fall Rice fulfilled part of her curriculum requirements by assistant coaching the Cal Poly Rodeo Team while also participating as a competitive member. Juggling both coaching and her own events has challenged Rice to work harder in all aspects of school and rodeo. However, that is not the toughest part of returning for a 5th year of eligibility for the Clements, Calif. native. Over the summer, just weeks before returning to San Luis Obispo, Rice had major back surgery.

CNFR Katie Rice-0054
Katie Rice at the CNFR

“The game has changed not only physically, but mentally as well for me. I’ve always been one to practice as hard as I possibly can, roping on a couple horses or not only tying a goat once a day but sometimes even twice… This fall I was not able to bounce back to where I had left off as fast as I anticipated…I focused on quality rather than quantity and rely heavily on my roping and goat dummies,” said Rice.

The first college rodeo of the year at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. proved that nothing could slow Rice down. In the first rodeo, she tied for second in the breakaway roping, a huge comeback as she had only been back to just riding horses for the three weeks prior to the rodeo. Simply put by the graduate student, “It is all perspective and how we choose to react, respond, and look at things.”

The new, but familiar face of Courtney Wood is on Cal Poly’s campus and in the rodeo arena as well. It has been an aspiration of Wood’s to rodeo for Cal Poly and coach Ben Londo. “Rodeo has always been a huge part of my life and to get the chance to further my education while I get to rodeo is a dream come true,” stated Wood. Just two weeks before school began in September, Wood got the call she had been anxiously waiting for. She packed her trailer and loaded her horses, she was headed to the Central Coast! Wood speaks highly of the welcoming atmosphere of the Cal Poly Rodeo Team as it, “is like a big family.”

CNFR Day 5 Courtney Wood
Courtney Wood competing at the CNFR

Wood has proved to be an outstanding team member and important asset to the Cal Poly points team. At the first college rodeo, she was the All-Around Cowgirl by placing 5th in barrel racing, 5th in breakaway roping, and 1st in the goat tying. That same weekend at the second rodeo in Quincy, Calif. Wood won the average in the goat tying.

Both of these talented young women are going to play a major role in this year’s Cal Poly’s Women’s team as Coach Ben Londo hopes that the women’s team will win the West Coast region and qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo.

CNFR Day Courtney Wood

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