Winning the all-around title at the College National Finals Rodeo is a big accomplishment for a collegiate rodeo athlete.
Winning two is a dream come true.
For Hayden Segelke of Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., this dream became a reality at the 65th annual CNFR, held in Casper, Wyo., earlier this month.
“Last year was a big surprise that I won it,” she said. “This year was really close. It was kind of a surprise when it was all said and done. I’m still taking it in.
“It’s one of those things going into college hoping for to win it once. To win it twice; I couldn’t ask for that.”
Segelke, from Synder, Colo., won the women’s all-around title for the second consecutive year.
She won her first title as a freshman at NJC, and came back this year in her signature events, barrel racing and goat tying.
Segelke had a total of 465 points and helped her school earn the reserve champion women’s team title. She finished third in the barrel racing and second in the goat tying.
Her favorite event is the goat tying. She split two rounds in this event, and brought home two rings for her efforts there.
“I like the goat tying because it’s more of an event that is based on your performance, rather than your horse’s,” she said. “The more you put into it, the more you get out it. You don’t have to have a high-dollar horse to do well.”
She keeps a small herd of 10 goats at home that she uses for practice, and practices nearly every single day.
“It takes a lot of practice and a lot of mental preparation to be good,” she said.
She added, “Every day since last year I’ve imagined my run at the finals, and that helps a lot, thinking that you are going to win it. You will be more successful than if you are just hoping.”
Her barrel horse, a seven-year old horse that she trained, named Rascal, has been her companion for many years.
“I’m super lucky to have a nice barrel horse, and he won horse of the year this year, which was super exciting. We raised and trained him ourselves,” she stated.
Segelke comes from a rodeo family, as both of her parents rodeoed, as do her three siblings.
“I was just born into it. I’ve got two sisters and a little brother, and we all rodeo together,” she explained.
The family aspect is her favorite part of rodeo.
“I think the biggest thing for me is that it’s a family thing in the way we do it. We share horses and tack. We share everything,” she said.
She continued, “When you get to the rodeo you feel like there is another family there as well. You are competing with each other, but at the end of the day, you are still a big family.”
This summer, Segelke will be competing at PRCA rodeos with her little sister Paxtun, who is also attending NJC and went to the college finals in the breakaway roping. “I’m excited to be traveling with her this summer,” Segelke said.
Segelke credits rodeo with helping her to build confidence in herself, and strive for excellence in the classroom, as well as the arena.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence, not just from doing well, but having the responsibility of caring for other things. That responsibility transfers over to the classroom, especially at the college level, because there is no one telling you to go to class,” she explained.
This fall, she will be transferring to Eastern New Mexico State University in Portales, where she will be studying social studies with an emphasis in history, which was her major at NJC.
“Right now my main goal is to finish school. Once I get out of school I will decide what I want to do. I would like to get my master’s degree as well,” she said.
Education is a key factor to the rodeo athlete’s success, according to NJC head coach Brian Cullen, who is also an assistant professor of agriculture business management. “We had eight academic All-Americans this year, so our students are being successful in the arena as well as the classroom. We only get two years of their life, and we are really proud to be part of that time. We want them to move up and finish their education,” he said.
He added, “After their time with us, they transfer all around the country, depending on what their major is. Fortunately many of them can continue to rodeo at other schools on rodeo scholarships or academic scholarships.”
Cullen has been coaching the NJC team since 2003, and has developed a program that helps his students succeed.
“During the regular season we have a pretty intense practice schedule. We start the first day of school in August, and practice through Thanksgiving. Then we come back in January and start with physical conditioning: aerobics and strength straining. Then, in mid-February, we start back with practice and go through the last rodeo the first week in May,” he said.
He continued, “Once they take finals for their classes, we don’t see them until the finals. All the kids have practice facilities and come from rodeo families. They are competing and practicing all the time.”
The women’s team is coached by Taya McAdow. “We are using more than one arena and she is a big part of our success and gives those kids the opportunity to gain from her knowledge and she’s very competitive,” Cullen said.
Cullen was proud of his team, who sent both men and women to compete at the finals.
Both Segelke sisters competed, as well as Coralee Spratt (Lysite, Wyo.), who competed in the breakaway roping and goat tying events. She finished 27th in the breakaway and 33rd in the goat-tying event.
Paxtun Segelke finished 49th in the breakaway.
These three women represented the women’s team, which placed second overall.
“There’s a lot of legacy in this team and that was cool,” Cullen said. “They almost won the whole thing. It was so close. I’m so proud of them; who they are and what they have done. That’s an awesome group of gals and they will all be successful no matter where they go.”
The men’s team consisted of three steer wrestlers: David Hinman, Tylor Bond and Caleb Weddle. Bond finished 24th, Hinman 25th and Weddle 37th. Bond’s brother Kelby, who competed at last year’s CNFR, hazed for all three of his teammates. The men’s team finished 36th.
The nation’s best college cowboys and cowgirls from different regions across the country attended this year’s CNFR. They competed to win national titles in saddle bronc, bareback,bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.
The top three students in each event and top two men’s and women’s teams from the 11 regions qualified for the CNFR.
NJC competes in the Central Rocky Mountain Region.
“It was an exciting time, and we had some pretty awesome kids. We are very proud to have them on our team,” Cullen said. ❖