A unique BCcollege sports team has become a runaway success.
Its main competitors are athletes in cowboy boots and horses in the saddle. The team logo is a horse mark. Elite contenders sleep at a school near a stable, and team members travel to competitions across the prairies in pickup trucks pulling heavy horse trailers.
Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek forms the only university rodeo team in British Columbia
Now the team has taken the reins at the national level, winning three Canadian championship belt buckles last month in pole bending, steer wrestling and tie-down, of the Canadian Intercollegiate Rodeo Association championship. in Brooks, Alberta.
“We’re proud. We’re elated. There’s absolute amazement,” said Leanne Esau, sports and community engagement manager at Northern Lights College.
“These are high level sports. These athletes aspire to become professionals.”
Like other elite college sports teams, Northern Lights recruits talented high school applicants to its campus with scholarships. But there are also unique student accommodations, with horse stalls.
The team dormitory is a farm with a barn and riding arena so students can be close to their equine partners. The student housing fee covers stall rental, but hay is extra.
Bryce Garcia, the national intercollegiate champion in the tie-down competition, slept at the farmhouse dorm during the school year.
“Living with my horses at home was very convenient. I could go horseback riding and rope every other day,” said the carpentry student, who wields a lasso and jumps from horse to the ground to tie up the horses. calves in competition.
Social work student Amber Wollen and her quarter horse, Rio, have won national championships in pole bending, a form of horseback slalom that requires precision and speed.
“It’s very adrenaline pumping,” said Wollen, who rides most days and trains with the college team three times a week.
His 16 teammates are students in early childhood education, plumbing and business management.
Like other varsity sports, the team focuses on strength, conditioning, nutrition, and mental training.
But team training also includes horses.
“The western lifestyle and … the connection to our agricultural roots is something that our college has embraced through the rodeo team,” said Todd Bondaroff, president and CEO of Northern Lights College, who lives on a farm and previously worked for the ministry. of Agriculture.
College rodeo is very popular in the United States, Saskatchewan and Alberta, which have half a dozen teams.