With nine rodeos under its belt this season, the Fort Hays State University rodeo team looks to compete in – and host – the final stop of the Central Plains regional season. The 44th annual FHSU Rodeo will be held this weekend, April 16-18, at the Doug Philip Arena – bringing into Hays about 500 contestants from Kansas and Oklahoma.
Performance times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The weekend will conclude with the short-go round at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Only the top 10 contestants in each event will make it back for Sunday’s competition.
Out of the 11 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association regions, the Central Plains Region has the most schools competing in it, and according to Bronc Rumford, FHSU rodeo team head coach, the region’s quality of contestants equals its quantity.
“Some of the best college hands in rodeo are in the Central Plains Region,” Rumford said. “It’s the toughest and most competitive region in college rodeo. Besides having some of the toughest competitors, we also have more than any other region.”
And with Hays’ rodeo being the final stop for the region, its results will determine the final regional standings, as well as which contestants will have enough points to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo, June 13-19, in Casper, Wyo. Only the region’s top three contestants in each event and the top two men’s and women’s teams from each region will get to compete at the CNFR.
“(The FHSU Rodeo) is the last rodeo of the year for the region,” Rumford said, “so everyone will be trying to make that last effort to qualify for the CNFR.”
In addition to the usual rodeo events, the annual Wild Ride competition will be held at FHSU’s rodeo. Contestants will make as wild a ride as possible on a bucking horse, often sporting wild costumes and crazy riding styles.
“Part of the scoring is on the costume, and the other part is based on how wild the ride is,” Rumford said. “That’s pretty much it. Just ride wild and be free.”
Rumford’s son, sophomore Ty Rumford, will also perform trick roping for pre-rodeo entertainment before each performance.
FHSU looks to have 27 of its own rodeo team contestants competing this weekend in addition to having entries in the Wild Ride.
Aside from preparing to host its rodeo, the team has also been working hard to do well at the spring rodeos. Most recently, a pair of FHSU cowboys qualified for the short-go at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Rodeo in Weatherford, Okla., last weekend, April 8-10.
Senior Cody Pratt qualified for his first short-go of the 2009-10 season in steer wrestling, stopping the clock in 5.3 seconds in the long round. Cody Kiser, junior, qualified for the short-go with a 68-point ride in the bull riding.
In the final round, Pratt finished his run with a time of 4.4, but a broken barrier added an additional 10 seconds to his run, sitting him 7th in the average. Had Pratt not have left the box too soon, he would have finished the rodeo 3rd in the average.
“At this level of competition, the barrier determines your success.” Pratt said. “Being late takes you out of (placing).”
Kiser, on the other hand, has done well enough in the long rounds to make it to the finals three times this season, but he has been unable to stay on his short-go bulls for the full eight seconds.
“It’s great, but at the same time, it’s frustrating,” Kiser said. “Even though I’m making short rounds, you can’t win or make the CNFR if you don’t ride your short round bulls.”
Although Kiser won’t be able to accumulate enough points at the region’s last rodeo to qualify for the CNFR, he still has one last shot to finally ride that short round bull at FHSU’s rodeo.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $5 at Vanderbilt’s, Orscheln Farm and Home and the FHSU Memorial Union or for $6 at the gate. Children six and under get in free. There will also be two slack performances – free of charge for spectators – at 10 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.