Silent leader fits cowboy
HASTINGS, Neb. – There’s a young cowboy in Doniphan, Neb., who represents about 1,200 high school kids across the nation.
Rhyder Nelson is the president of the National High School Rodeo Association, the sanctioning organization of high school rodeo in 44 states and four provinces.
Nelson, who graduated from Doniphan High School this past May, was elected to the position in July of 2009. A friend, Wyatt Clark of Wellfleet, Neb., who had held the same position two years ago, convinced him to run for election and Rhyder won.
His job as president? To represent high school rodeo. “Wherever we’d go, we showed that these are the kinds of kids that rodeo produces,” Rhyder said. He also served as an advocate for high school rodeo athletes with voting rights on all decisions.
He not only serves in an office in the NHSRA, he competes. Rhyder is a calf roper, steer wrestler and team roper in the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association, where he’s currently ranked first in the team roping, third in the steer wrestling, and fifth in the calf roping.
To say the young man is focused and a hard worker is an understatement. He played basketball all four years of high school and football three of them. He competes in 4-H rodeo and shows horses. Football presented the biggest time challenge for him. With high school rodeos on weekends, Rhyder would play football on Friday nights, come home, load horses, and head out to rodeos yet that night. It was, in his words, “go to school, go to football practice, go home, rope, go to sleep, wake up, lift (weights)” and start all over again. He chose not to play football his senior year, wanting to be “at the top of my game” for rodeo. In place of football practice, he would go home and practice his roping.
The position of president has matured the 18 year old. He has become a better speaker, says his mom, Monique. “He’s more outspoken in his government and debate classes.” His peers in the rodeo association call him the “silent leader,” he says. “I’d let things go on till something needed to be said, and if something needed to be done, I’d make sure it got done.” Rhyder is the only male on the board, serving with three girls. “We don’t talk much about sports,” he quips.
The role has also allowed him to do some traveling. Representing the association, he spent time at Denver’s Western and English Association Sales Market, speaking with rodeo sponsors, and he got to try alligator for the first time at meetings in Louisiana. He traveled to Las Vegas for pro rodeo, and spent time in Lexington, Kent., also.
Rhyder will compete at the Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo in Hastings on June 23-26, 2010, in all three of his events. He hopes to earn a berth to the National High School Finals Rodeo in July, where he was elected a year ago. He’ll step down as president at that rodeo, and he says he’ll miss it. “There are a lot of good people I met in the high school association,” he says.
This fall, Rhyder will attend Southeast Oklahoma State University in Durant on a rodeo scholarship, with an eye on a pre-medicine degree. He is considering becoming a chiropractor. He’ll compete on Southeast’s rodeo school in all three of his events, and might consider pro rodeo competition, depending on how school goes.
He is the son of Rod and Monique Nelson. Rhyder has an older sister, Neilee, and a younger brother, Rhett.