Colorado State University hosts annual Skyline Stampede Rodeo
April 14, 2017
Colorado State University is well-known for its equine sciences and veterinary programs, but over the weekend of April 7-9, it also showed off a rich history in the sport of rodeo. Fourteen college rodeo teams competed in the 67th annual Skyline Stampede Rodeo in Fort Collins, Colo. Held in CSU's B.W. Pickett Arena, the oldest collegiate rodeo club in the nation hosted the oldest college rodeo on record. That legacy is a source of pride for the 35 to 40 members of the CSU rodeo club.
"It's really cool to be a part of it," said Kristen Grave of Gilchrest, Colo., who is president of the CSU Rodeo Club and a senior at the university. "We have been hosting the Skyline Stampede for approximately 67 years, but our team has been around since the 1940's, which is the longest-running collegiate rodeo program."
The Skyline Stampede Rodeo is part of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's Central Rocky Mountain Region, which consists of college teams in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The three-day event had a Friday night performance, a Saturday night performance, and a Sunday short go (to go along with two rounds of slack). Prizes for winning events were nice, to be sure, but the points accumulated toward qualifying for the upcoming College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., were a big reason contestants showed up to compete.
One such competitor was CSU freshman barrel racer Lake Mehalic, Tuscon, Ariz., who ranked first in the region heading into the event. Rodeoing since she was 6 years old, Mehalic showed that experience aboard 12-year-old Big Brown, as the duo took home the average title by earning the only two sub 15-second times in the barrel racing event.
"That is just his style, he just gets in the ground," said a pleased Mehalic shortly after her Saturday night ride. "He's my old reliable."
The CSU freshman was also pleased to be part of the university's long-standing rodeo club.
"I wasn't planning on doing college rodeo," said Mehalic, who figured to earn her degree before going all out as a professional barrel racer. "But then I found out about the club and the team. I love it so much. All my closest friends have come from this team. We are like a big family. They all love the sport of rodeo and they are so supportive. We love putting on this rodeo."
RAISING ITS PROFILE
While hosting the Skyline Stampede carries on the CSU rodeo tradition, the club has also recently begun setting up events to honor its past. From get-togethers designed for rodeo alumni to mix and mingle to unveiling the first inductees on the CSU Rodeo Wall of Fame in 2017, the club is focused on raising the profile of the tradition-rich CSU rodeo team.
"We sent out hundreds of invitations to all our alumni and we've got teams from the 1950s and 1960s and they are all coming together and we are celebrating that, this year," said Grave at an event held before Saturday night's rodeo performance. "CSU is a really elite school in that we have a lot of amazing programs. So it is cool that the rodeo team is starting to become one of the upper noticed programs that is part of CSU."
Even alumni from the days when it was known as Colorado A&M were on hand to share their eagerness at seeing the rodeo program garner more attention.
"I feel really good about it," said Roy Lilley, who was part of the national championship winning 1952 CSU rodeo team. Lilley did his part by placing third in bull riding for the year, second in saddle bronc riding, second in bareback riding, and earning reserve for the all-around cowboy title.
"I would like to see them get even more support than they get," Lilley continued. "I think they have been showing more interest in the alumni group in the last three or four years, and I think we can help a lot."
The personable cowboy from Virginia Dale, Colo., wore a grin that never faded during a conversation that included good memories of his college rodeo days in Fort Collins.
"We had worlds of fun," Lilley said. "Six of us would pack up in a car and drive all night to a weekend rodeo, (then) come back Monday and go to class. College rodeos were all on the weekend, but you couldn't miss too much class, so we drove all night getting there and drove all night getting back."
Even recent graduates shared similar enthusiasm for CSU's rodeo club.
"The history of the club is probably the best part of it," said Rachel Hummel, Watkins, Colo., a 2016 CSU graduate and alumni of the rodeo team. "Rodeo in general has such a rich history and is a uniquely American thing. Then to do it at CSU and have this separate, really unique legacy that reaches back pretty far is another added level. Whenever you ride into the arena and you have those colors on, it is not just about you anymore, you are trying to represent something bigger than yourself."
That ideal included all the hard work put in by CSU rodeo club members throughout its storied history.
"Resting on your laurels is something I don't think anybody wants to do," Hummel added about the club's commitment to raising awareness of its members' accomplishments, past and present. "We do have a rich legacy, but it doesn't mean a whole lot unless you keep upholding it and give kids in the future a legacy to hold onto, as well." ❖
— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page