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The Student News Site of Southwestern Oklahoma State University

The Southwestern

Hadley Tate’s take on SWOSU Rodeo

Where the orange sunset touches the horizon, the Westerners practice night and day to put their cowboy skills to the test. A month ago SWOSU hosted its 51st annual rodeo at the BOP Ram Rodeo Grounds here in Weatherford. I had the opportunity to speak with long-time rodeo star Hadley Tate about what collegiate rodeo means for her as a student at SWOSU.

Hadley Tate was surrounded by rodeo her entire life, with her father being a professional calf roper until she was three years old. At four years old the Tate family began raising bucking bulls and horses and moved to Cody, Wyoming to attend the Cody Nite Rodeo. When the Tate sisters reached double digits, their father had asked them if they wanted to take rodeo more seriously. As Hadley puts it, “At that age, I was really fully committed, and I haven’t stopped ever since.” You can still find Hadley and her sister competing at the Cody Nite Rodeo after almost nineteen years.

Mike Visnieski, SWOSU rodeo coach, had contacted Hadley Tate the summer before her senior year to offer her a tour of the school. Hadley agreed to the tour, fell in love with the school, applied, and got accepted into SWOSU without even looking at any other schools. Hadley decided on SWOSU primarily for the opportunities that rodeo at SWOSU could give her. She states, “I love the facilities we have, and I adore the coaches.” The SWOSU rodeo coaches have an understanding with their athletes that sometimes the issue is not in the ring. Hadley describes them as being mentally forward and very personable. “I think this school has pushed us to be not just better people, but better athletes- And I think that’s all you can ask for,” she says. SWOSU has made it a goal to get these student-athletes ready for not just their next rodeo, but the rest of their professional lives as well.

For young Hadley Tate, college was a little different. Because of rodeo, she was immediately welcomed by a friend group full of other young cattle wranglers. She had a group that she could find comfort in even before the first day of classes. However, As a student-athlete, managing her time could be hard. Hadley said it took her a while to get used to being a student-athlete at a collegiate level. For rodeo athletes, not only do they have to practice and keep their grades up, but they have to take care of their horses too. Hadley states that having a set schedule and sticking to it has helped her drastically. “I have my set times to feed, my set times I work out, my set times to practice. And then putting the academics in that time off.” She stresses not to wait until the end of the day to do homework, because you won’t want to do it by then. “A coffee shop is my best friend because if I try to do my homework at home, I don’t get it done.” She often partners up with a friend from the rodeo team for frequent study sessions, so they can hold each other accountable.

I asked Hadley the level of training she undergoes to compete at a collegiate level, to which she responded that most of the training she does is on herself. “I do a ton of physical training like working out. But I do mental training too; breathing, meditating, stuff like that. You need to be mentally strong, especially in this sport where many things can go wrong so fast.” She mentions that breakaway roping can be mentally taxing because you have three minds going; your own, your horse, and the calves. Hadley stresses the importance of taking care of the horses too, she exclaims that her horse eats better than she does. However, Cisco, her horse, loves to be spoiled with sweets. Cisco won the title ‘Women’s Horse of the Year’ at the 2024 SWOSU Athletic Banquet.

SWOSU holds one rodeo annually, at the beginning of April. Other than when the rodeo is in town, our team will have to commute to the other schools that put on a rodeo. These drives can reach upwards of six hours including locations like Colby, Kansas, and Durant, Oklahoma. These trips are funded by our university rodeo stars, so if you ever would like to help the team travel, check the SWOSU Rodeo Facebook page for options on donating. Hadley prefers attending the home rodeos because she and her horse love the BOP Ram Rodeo Grounds. Cisco is just more comfortable at home. She prefers the SWOSU rodeo for its quality as well, “We have a stock contractor that takes many animals to the NFR, we have a great production, and I honestly just think you can come out and see a really really good rodeo. They try to make ours as best as possible.” Lightheartedly Hadley jokes that she loves to watch the other athletes, like the football and basketball players, help before the home rodeos because they don’t know how to handle the livestock.

There are many events to compete in, in rodeo, such as bull riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, and steer wrestling. Hadley participates in the breakaway roping and barrel racing events. This year at the 51st Annual SWOSU Rodeo, Hadley was just 0.05 seconds short of first place in barrel racing, with an average time of 16.45 seconds. Overall, the SWOSU women’s rodeo team scored 335, Making it their third rodeo win of the season and the first home win in over a decade. The rodeo was a great time and is recommended to anyone who might get the opportunity to attend next year. As Hadley puts it, “You’re watching these kids at a college level, but a lot of them are going on pro, and you might see these people in the NFR in a year or two.”

Hadleys advice for anyone pursuing collegiate rodeo is that “There’s going to be a lot of downs for few highs. And I think it makes it that much sweeter. Anything you do in life, if you want to do it halfway, you’re never going to see the results you want to, especially in rodeo.” She says that the bad days won’t bother anyone who really enjoys rodeo, because you can find the highs in all the lows. She recommends collegiate rodeo to anyone thinking about it, as you’ll meet some of the best people along the way.

The most memorable part of rodeo for Hadley, aside from her amazing bond with her sweet-treat loving horse, is the support system created by her teammates. She says, “If I want anyone to beat me, I want it to be someone on my team.” Hadley states that she is competing with one of her teammates for a top spot in barrel racing for the Central Plains region, she believes this internal competition is good for the both of them and is something other teams sometimes lack. On weeks the SWOSU rodeo team doesn’t have a rodeo to attend, they have a mandatory jackpot they must buy into and compete in so they can stay in a competitive mindset.

To end the college season, the SWOSU Women’s Rodeo Team takes the Central Plains Region Champion title home after winning three rodeos in a row! They won five out of the ten rodeos this year. Hadley walks away second in the region for barrel racing and has qualified for the College National Finals along with Cheyenne VandeStouwe who is the Women’s Region Champion and stands second in the region for goat tying. This year’s SWOSU rodeo MVPs were Marley Berger and Libby Berger. Rascal, Marley’s horse, won this year’s ‘Mens Horse of the Year’ award. The teammates who helped every step of the way, so much so that they won the ‘Most Valuable Teammate’ award, were Bailey Weeks and Bob Walter. Congratulations to the women’s rodeo team for winning the final bulldog of the week!

It takes a lot of strength and willpower to be a cowboy or cowgirl. You need years of practice, a strong mental fortitude, and preferably a horse. Hadley plans to pursue a career in broadcasting after continuing her education by getting her master’s here at SWOSU. You can find her and her rodeo family at the Cody Nite Rodeo during the summer or on the BOP Ram Rodeo Grounds practicing during school. Be sure to congratulate the next cowboy or girl you see, they did great this season and made it out with no major injuries!

Want to know what to yell at the next collegiate rodeo you attend? “GO DAWGS!!”

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About the Contributor
Jessica Dooty
Jessica Dooty, Reporter
Jessica is a freshman from the small town of Jones, majoring in Communications with a minor in Public Relations. She joined The Southwestern in February 2023 after transferring, and loves to take pictures of campus life and events. She enjoys anything car or music related, but will always jump at the opportunity to photograph anything.

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