UA Rodeo Riders Not Just Horsing Around

Jan. 25, 2012

What does it take to be successful in life? The courage to take on big responsibilities? The ability to perform under pressure? The presence of mind to care for your team members? The drive to see an effort through to the finish?

Members of the University of Arizona Rodeo Club get all this and much more. Through their involvement in the club, the UA rodeo riders build skills that they’ll use for the rest of their days.

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The Oldest Intercollegiate Rodeo Club in the World

On February 4th, 2012, 200 collegiate cowboys and cowgirls from ten colleges and universities across Arizona and New Mexico will gather to engage in a competition – a tradition – that dates back to 1939.

The men compete against one another in a variety of events: bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, team roping, tie down roping and steer wrestling. Women’s team members compete in goat tying, breakaway roping, barrel racing and team roping. In all events, speed, skill, strength, accuracy, quick thinking and grit determine the victors.

Winners of each event will walk away with a trophy belt buckle – the icon of the rodeo champion.

The event will take place at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, also the home of Tucson’s Fiesta de los Vaqueros which will take place just weeks later.

“We’ve had quite a few world champions here,” says John Marchello, Ph.D. animal sciences faculty member and professor of meat science and muscle biology in theCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “When I came here in 1965, they needed an advisor for the rodeo club,” he says. “A lot of youngsters I had in that time, their grandkids are coming back to rodeo.”

Today, almost 50 years later, Marchello is still advising the group.

“He’s kept the Arizona tradition alive,” says Zach McFarlane, veterinary science major. “Heck, he’s a legacy.”

Why Ride?

So why ride rodeo? Many think it’s an antiquated practice. Many say it’s dangerous. But for sophomore Carollann Scott, journalism major and Rodeo Club president, it’s about taking on challenge and using that opportunity to better herself.

“You walk in the arena, you get on that horse, you get on that bull, whatever you’re doing, that’s pressure. And that’s intensity,” she says. “Whether I’m going to be in broadcast journalism like I want to, I’ll be able to be put on the spot. Our events don’t take longer than ten seconds most of the time, and so you have ten seconds to give it all you got.”

Marchello sees rodeo as an excellent way to learn life’s tough lessons. “They learn competition. But they learn also that there are some hard knocks, “he says. “They learn how to handle those things.”

“It’s one of those sports where if someone goes better than you, you’re going to go congratulate them and shake their hand. That’s rodeo,” says McFarlane. “Somebody had a better day than you.”

Why at the UA?

In choosing journalism at the UA, “I was going to be able to not just learn broadcast or radio or print, I was going to be able to learn it all, and so that was really cool,” Scott says. “And then they had a rodeo team.”

But those two features were essential, and the UA was the right match for this bold spirit who struck out for her college adventure on her own in her truck pulling a trailer with all her stuff, three horses and her dog.

“We’re proud to be cowboys and cowgirls,” she whoops.

“I’m going to keep doing rodeo the rest of my life,” says McFarlane. “I may have to take a break in vet school because it’s so strenuous. But it’s always going to be part of my life.”

Check out the University of Arizona Rodeo Club.

Learn about college rodeo from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

And just try and keep pace with the UA Rodeo Team.