CNCC rodeo fields first complete team

Dax Hadlock pictured riding a bronc at rough stock practice.

Dax Hadlock pictured riding a bronc at rough stock practice.
RANGELY I After more than a year of preparation and another year operating at half-strength, Colorado Northwestern Community College rodeo will field a complete team at this year’s National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) competitions.
Head rodeo coach and Columbine Park facilities manager Jed Moore, who came to CNCC in May 2010, had a year to build a rodeo program from the ground up before recruiting athletes to it. Former CNCC President John Boyd pushed for the sport because he believed it would complement the college’s equine studies and management program.
“We got the green light to recruit on March 1, 2011,” Moore said. “That gave us about six months before the school’s start to bring in students. It took some very special college athletes to come to a school that had never fielded a program before and take that step.”
The gamble paid off. Last May, five freshmen finished their first year with the team. All five have returned this year, along with 12 others, to make up CNCC’s first full team.
One student who’s back for more is Krystal Hensley, a sophomore from Montrose, Colo., who competes in the barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying events.
“What I liked about Jed was that I could put my two cents in, as well as get his perspective,” Hensley said. “He lets us figure things out for ourselves, lets us say, ‘Hey, maybe we could try to solve it this way.’”
Other rodeo athletes have turned down offers from university programs, preferring to go with CNCC instead. Utah state champion team roper Clay Crozier, from Roosevelt, Utah, could have chosen Weber State University, Utah Valley University, or Oklahoma Panhandle State University to compete in the team roping and calf roping he now does here. One deciding factor kept him close to home.
“Jed is the main reason I came here,” Crozier said. “He’s the best all-around coach and recruiter in the region. I love the environment here, we all get along. When you think Rangely, Colo., you think, ‘What am I going to do for fun here?’ But that’s all we do, is have fun.”
That fun includes team-building events like whitewater rafting as well as honing skills in the arena.
“Jed is really ambitious, a go-getter,” Crozier said. “He’s also motivational and tries to make you better in the mental aspects of the game.”
For Moore, that also means making himself better as a coach. A couple of times a year Moore attends rodeo schools to learn how to teach different events more effectively. A professional bull rider for 13 years, Moore retired from the sport in 2010. Now he uses that experience, a degree in physical education and years of competing on high school and college rodeo teams to teach students what he’s learned.
“It’s difficult not to be riding anymore,” Moore said. “But it’s starting to get easier to decide I’m not going to get on a bull. Seeing some of my students do well is almost as big a thrill as when I was competing myself. That’s the payoff now.”
Last year, even though CNCC didn’t fill a roster, the school was still an official NIRA team. The women competed in barrel racing, breakaway and goat tying at all 10 NIRA rodeos in the Rocky Mountain region, while the men participated in team roping, bronc riding and bull riding events. The freshmen placed ahead of a few established rodeo teams, Moore said, with the men placing in the region’s top 10 in their events.
This year, Moore hopes, will be even more impressive as CNCC looks to its top six men and four women to score points across all events.
“I’m really excited to be fielding complete teams,” Moore said. “Being able to step up into a rodeo against the College of Southern Idaho and Utah Valley University is kind of like a 2A seven-man football team stepping up against a 4A school playing 11-man. This year, I’ve got more kids and a deeper talent pool. We’re going to scare some people, and I will not be surprised to have some CNFR (College National Finals Rodeo) qualifiers.”
Incoming freshman Devon Vondette said that while her high school rodeo experience in Rifle, Colo., was helpful, she’s now competing at a whole new level.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Vondette said. “Usually in practice, you don’t see this kind of talent. On our team, everybody’s really good, really strong … there’s some competitiveness, but really we want everyone to do the best that they can.”
Team unity is only part of what will make CNCC rodeo successful, Moore believes. To do well in the sport, students have to put “college first, rodeo second.”
“When I’m recruiting, the first thing I’m looking at is academics, to see if a student has demonstrated a work ethic and desire to succeed in and out of the arena,” Moore said.
Colorado Northwestern’s vice president of instruction and student services David Smith said Moore’s philosophy fits a funding model recently adopted by CNCC.
“We put much more of an academic emphasis on a lot of scholarship money we had funded by the (Rangely Junior College District) Board,” Smith said. “This year, we’ve given away every dollar and even had to backfill some of that. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in the academic level of students, Jed’s students included.”
Smith said Moore’s approach to recruiting is also key to moving the program forward.
“Jed’s built relationships with high school programs, so the best is yet to come,” Smith said. “He’s off to a good start, and now he’s putting the pieces together for the next several years. I’m expecting us to become a force in our conference, if not on a national level.”
For now, Moore works toward that goal one year at a time.
“Having been a member of successful rodeo teams, I already had some ideas of how I would like to field my team and what that image of a team would be,” Moore said.
“What an outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity for me to build this program
from the ground up.”