Well folks, I’m sitting here waiting for the eighth round of the National Finals Rodeo to start and it just hits me how old I am getting. I grew up watching the NFR with my family and I can remember being star-struck watching all the extremely talented cowboys and cowgirls. In many ways I’m still star-struck because these are the men and women who are living THE dream. They aren’t only the top athletes in the sport, but they are role models for so many, young and old, regardless of gender every single qualifier can be a role model to anyone who admires rodeo. So, as much as I still have a child-like admiration for NFR contestants this year I have a whole new string of emotions. All of a sudden, I’m no longer that little girl watching the NFR with my dad, imagining what it would be like to get to meet one of the top 15, but rather I’m sitting here thinking ‘How in the world can I be this old already’? (Now I’m aware comparatively speaking I’m not old. In fact, I’m sure someone would laugh and tell me I don’t know what old is, but I feel old is the point!) You see the reason is, this year I am watching several qualifiers who, at one time, I shared the experience of being in the same college rodeo region as them. It’s a little surreal to realize that I am actually at that age where the kids I once college rodeoed with are now at the prime of their sport and competing at the prestigious Thomas and Mack Arena. It’s a dream which I’m sure we’ve all dreamed of, heck it’s probably a dream we still dream of and will continue to dream about for the rest of our lives. I know I sure dream of a world qualification and even better, a world championship and I would bet good money you could ask any one of the NFR qualifiers and they would tell you it’s a dream that they not only think about every day, but they live and breathe the dream every day, every minute and every second. Even after multiple qualifications and world championships, making the trip back to Sin City to compete in the most highly recognized event in the rodeo industry is still a dream of theirs.
I find myself having a mix of emotions. On one hand I’m disappointed work responsibilities keep me from being able to rodeo full-time. If any of you college rodeo guys (or former college rodeo kid like myself) have the same problem I do, then you’ll understand it’s hard going from basically full-time rodeoing (oh and yeah of course going to class because I totally never skipped class to go to a rodeo instead….) to actually having to go to work every day. But, then again on the other hand I’m really excited for those guys who were in the same region as me during college for accomplishing their goals! Although the NFR is by far one of the most exciting events there is, I will admit, there is a different outlook on the event when you know someone. The rodeo seems, somehow, familiar. Almost as if it were a college rodeo, somehow the rodeo seems “homey”. Plus, I have list of people to cheer for in every event.
For the first time in YEARS I actually watch the bull riding, voluntarily! Not only do I watch it, but I even caught myself during one round actually yelling at the TV (because that helps don’t you know?). I mean bull riding is not exactly my favorite event, but I can appreciate a good ride and a cowboy with a lot of try, and then when you throw a bull rider who rodeoed in my region in the mix, I guess I get a little bit worked up. And I have to say Sage Kimzey is sure tearing it up in Vegas, making Oklahoma and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Central Plains region proud!
But, it’s not just the bull riding. The steer wrestling even has an old Central Plains boy in the top 15. And man he is also doing well for his first visit to the NFR. It sure is nice to see these guys do well. Being of similar age and having watched them compete in college it’s inspiring for a kid like me who dreams of what it would be like to compete at the NFR. Plus, it makes the NFR seem reachable. Always growing up I idolized the cowboys and cowgirls who made it to Vegas. Heck I still idolize them. So in some way it makes the feat seem a little more achievable, it gives you hope and confidence in yourself, and it brings some humanization to the top 15 men and women. I know I know, humanization? you ask. That seems like a weird word, and maybe it is, but somehow watching those guys compete has somehow made the NFR qualifiers seem a little less like unapproachable gods, but rather like normal everyday people (which I know they are). Having made that realization it gives me motivation to work hard for my goals and dreams.
So, all that being said, I’m old and inspired (you didn’t even need to read all that if I just would have said this first!) and on that note I would love to give a shout out and a huge congratulations to the folks tearing up the dirt in the Thomas and Mack and who are or were Central Plains college rodeo athletes!
Oklahoma Panhandle State University alumni: Cort Scheer, Taos Muncy and Spencer Wright – Saddle Bronc
OPSU: Joe Frost (Linderman Award recipient)
Northwestern Oklahoma State University alums: Kyle Irwin – Steer Wrestling and Jake Long – Team Roping (heeling)
NWOSU: Sage Kimzey – Bull Riding (Rookie year and currently sitting 1st in the projected world standings)
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and NWOSU alum: Coleman Proctor – Team Roping (heading)