Students Saddle Up For National Rodeo Appearance
|Colby Walkoviak is a sophomore and a two-time tie-down qualifier for the College National Finals.|
Alexis Bloomer is a sophomore mass communication major with an emphasis in broadcast journalism from Salado. Below, Bloomer introduces the 15 students who have qualified to compete in their respective events. Follow live blog coverage at http://live.trib.com/Event/CNFR_Monday_slack.
With a new season, there always comes an excited anticipation of what the newest members of the Sam Houston State University rodeo team will bring to the program.
As the reigning national champions, pressure is added to not only the team, but also to head coach Bubba Miller. With the support of his family and the team he has recruited, Miller feels he has been able to once again take the program to new heights.
To find out what is it that makes Sam Houston the best rodeo team in the nation, look no further than the 15 talented students working to win another national championship title June 1-16 at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
SHSU’s team members agree that behind every great team is a great leader, and Miller is the rodeo team’s “go-to guy.” He not only fills the coach’s role, but he’s also a husband, father and spiritual leader as well.
Having the back-to-back regional champions, Miller admits that the biggest challenge of a 57-member team is trying to manage time between school, students, family and church. For Miller, if you want a chance to rodeo for the national champion team, you must have maturity in and out of the arena, determination, drive and talent.
Along with the 15 national qualifiers, Miller will bring his wife, Tammy, and their children, Bradlee Bronc and Sonilyn, with him to the College National Finals Rodeo, as he does at every other college rodeo.
Education has always played an important role in Miller’s life, and he lives by something his grandfather told him, “An education is the one thing that someone can never take from you.” He continuously stresses the importance of grades to his team and always encourages them to maintain professional conduct and “represent Sam Houston in a positive manner.”
For his team, Sam Houston is proud to have strong rough stock riders, according to Miller.
Last year, Sam Houston’s Cody Teel was the National Bull Riding Champion, leading the team in its second lucky year in the rough stock arena. Having seven qualifiers in the rough stock category alone, each one has unique personalities and different methods of how to stay successful in and out of the arena.
Sam Houston State also has some amazing bareback riders, Miller said.
Bill Tutor is a sophomore studying ag business who not only believes that Sam Houston is a great school but also that Sam is a good representative of rodeo with great talent and coaching. The most memorable moment of the 2011-2012 college rodeo season for Tutor is when he and teammate Jake Brown split first at the Sam Houston Rodeo.
“It was exciting because we were both Sam Houston guys and this was my hometown rodeo,” Tutor said.
Another bareback rider is Huntsville’s own Taylor Price, a 19-year-old sophomore studying criminal justice. Not only is Price successful in the arena, but he also excels in other sports.
“I snowboarded and wake boarded until I was 14 years old,” he said. “My parents never pushed me to rodeo even though my dad rode bareback and my mom barrel raced.”
Although qualifying for the nationals is a huge honor, Price says that his most prestigious win was at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in Kissimmee, Fla.
Price said he plans to continue with his college education and pursue his rodeo career once he has his degree, adding that school is important to him, and he managed this past semester to not only rodeo but also make the Dean’s List.
“The Sam Houston rodeo program recruits the best kids because we live in a great town, we have great practice stock, and the school is also amazing. As for other students, I believe a lot of them choose Sam because it has a great and highly-respected criminal justice program — at least that’s why I came here,” Price said.
Jake Brown has qualified for the College Finals Rodeo in bareback as well. Brown is 22 years old and a senior from Hillsboro, who chose Sam Houston because it was a good rodeo school with a very talented team, he said.
Brown has his pro card and is currently sitting well in the world standings. Although Brown is all about rodeo, he admits that he is a good dancer as well; however, he plans to pursue his rodeo career, rather than his dancing career.
The No. 1 saddle bronc rider is a good distance from home. From Okeechobee, Fla., James Greeson is hitting the Texas College Rodeos with full speed. The 20-year-old sophomore came to Sam Houston because of the “location and the fact that it is a great school.” Being a rough stock rider, one has to be in shape and for Greeson, that’s a priority.
“I work out every day, I ride every weekend and I try to practice once a week,” said the Southern Region Saddle Bronc Champion. For fun, Greeson enjoys fishing, playing the guitar, and doing leatherwork in his free time.
Sam Houston also has the 2011 PRCA “Rookie of the Year” saddle bronc rider in Sterling Crawley. The 20 year old from Stephenville comes from a family that was raised with a roping background. Crawley’s brother, Jacobs, is the reigning National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding champion. Jacobs graduated from Texas A&M in December.
“It’s cool competing against your brother because the family has two chances to win,” Crawley jokes.
In the little spare time he has, Crawley enjoys playing the guitar, golfing and salsa dancing. As for his College National Finals goal, “I plan to do the same thing my brother did, and win it.”
The third, and final, saddle bronc qualifier, Jeremy Melancony, is no stranger to the College Finals Rodeo. The 24-year-old senior from Buffalo has not only excelled at the college rodeos, but also has placed second at the Cheyenne Frontier Days against some of the top guys in the industry.
After college, Melancony plans to invest in rental property and rodeo.
The one and only bull rider to qualify, Cody Holloway from Nacogdoches, is ready to bring back another National Bull Riding Champion title for Sam Houston State University. Cody is 21 years old and a junior studying ag engineering. His most prestigious win so far is winning second in the Texas Circuit Finals.
“I received a scholarship to come here, and I liked Sam as a school. My grandpa went to Sam Houston and that made me want to come here so much more,” Holloway said.
The rough stock program has had much success; however, the timed-event cowboys have done just as well, with three qualifiers, two of whom have been before.
From Yorktown, the 22-year-old Caleb Smidt is ready for his third visit to nationals. Smidt is a senior studying ag business and plans to rodeo after he graduates.
For Smidt, his most memorable moment this year was when he won both his events at the Panola College Rodeo. He is also the 2010 “All-Around Cowboy” at the college finals and won the first round in calf roping. This year, Smidt will compete in team and calf roping. He is also only $54 away from being the person to win the most on his PRCA permit.
Colby Walkoviak is a sophomore and a two-time tie-down qualifier for the College National Finals. The 20 year old plans to continue to rodeo after he graduates from college. His most prestigious win so far is winning Joe Beaver’s roping event this year.
Another Huntsville product, Tyler Gibson said he is ready for the challenge. The 20-year-old sophomore qualified for nationals in steer wrestling and is also rodeoing on his permit. His most prestigious win is the Huddleston Ranch jackpot this year. Not only does he hope to contribute another national title for the team, but he hopes to win another individual title as well.
In addition to the men’s team, Sam Houston State University will be sending five of the top cowgirls to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo, including 2011 National Champion Barrel Racer Liz Combs.
From El Topia, Wash., the 21 year old is competing at nationals for the third time in barrels and goat tying. Combs is a senior studying animal science and plans to one day open a horse rehabilitation center.
“I think Sam is so successful because here we have a choice to practice everyday, as long as you want,” Combs said. “Our winning rodeo program is ongoing, and we are known for being the best.”
Not only is she good in the arena, but Combs also enjoys working out and drawing in her spare time. She is currently sitting 16th in the world in the PRCA and recently won the Lufkin Pro Rodeo.
From Bellville, Brenna Byler has qualified twice for nationals in breakaway roping. Byler is a senior and a member of the Beta Alpha Psi Honor fraternity for finance students. For her, the most memorable moment this year was winning the “All-Around” title at the Sam Houston Rodeo for the second year in a row.
“Sam Houston has a great rodeo program because we get so much support from the coach and other team members,” says Byler.
After college, she plans to attend graduate school and take her CPA exam.
Megan Vincik is a 20-year-old sophomore animal science major from Liberty Hill. This is Vincik’s first year to qualify for nationals, and she will be competing in barrels. Her best memory from the past rodeo season was placing at all the rodeos. For fun, Megan enjoys the beach and shopping.
From Beaver, Utah, senior Stormie Haynie is studying elementary education and plans to teach after she graduates. This year, Haynie served as the region student director for the college rodeos and will be competing at nationals in barrels.
Alex Lacey, a 21-year-old junior from Centerville, is studying nursing. This is Lacey’s first year to qualify for nationals, and she will be running barrels for the team.
Having such a successful group of competitors gives Sam Houston great opportunity at winning another national title, according to Miller.
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