The Texas A&M rodeo team kicked off its season with an exhibition All-Aggie rodeo this past Saturday at the Brazos Valley Expo Center in Bryan. Participants included the current members of the team, along with former and potential new members.
Laramie Wedemeyer is an animal science sophomore heading into her second year on the rodeo team and is serving as its secretary. She said the unofficial rodeo is different in that the members are essentially competing against themselves, rather than outside opponents.
Brynn Dahlberg, a two-year member of the team, said the All-Aggie rodeo also served as good practice before their season officially kicks off in two weeks.
“It went well, [my horse] Cord and I were coming off of a 10-month break because he got hurt last fall, so it was just kind of a practice run to get back in the swing of things and was a lot of fun,” Dahlberg said. “I think that with having everyone all back together and running at the same rodeos it was fun to see familiar faces and horses. It was nice to be back in arenas with stands and some crowd too, I was glad to be back in that atmosphere.”
The rodeo team usually competes in four or five rodeos each semester, most of them in Texas. The first official rodeo of this season will be the Panola College Rodeo located in Tatum later this month.
Although COVID-19 regulations have significantly changed or restricted most athletic teams and organizations, the Aggie rodeo team is experiencing minimal consequences. The team is required to wear a face covering anytime social distancing is not feasible, but rodeos are still happening as normal.
The most considerable difference would likely be that some rodeo venues are not allowing spectators, which Wedemeyer said could hurt the rodeo industry.
“The entrance fees are a considerable amount of money that goes toward the rodeo industry, and competing without the support of fans will be different and harder for the athletes, too,” Wedemeyer said.
Since the members of the team transport themselves and their animals to rodeos individually, travel is not considered high-risk or much of a concern. However, the team has made adjustments for their meetings. Due to the size of the team, they are not allowed to gather on campus with their team sponsor, Al Wagner, Ph.D., as they usually would. Instead, they meet at the Brazos Valley Expo Center where they are able to comply with the distancing rules in place.
Despite minor changes, Wedemeyer said she’s excited to continue perfecting her craft as a barrel racer and breakaway roper. With a year of intercollegiate experience under her belt, she’s excited for the season and for the opportunity to serve as the team’s bible study leader this year as well.
“I’m thankful that we are still able to rodeo this semester, even if they are a little bit different,” Wedemeyer said. “To still have the opportunity to compete is something I’m looking forward to and I’ve realized that I often take for granted.”
Dahlberg, who competes in barrel racing as well, is in agreement. She said she’s looking forward to competing with everyone again and getting to travel, which is one of her favorite aspects of the team.
“The rodeo team has provided me with a lot of my friends, especially Laramie, who is now my roommate,” Dahlberg said. “This year I’m serving as a merchandise co-chair, which is exciting because I get to help design our team’s merchandise, and I’ve never done that before.”
In addition to new friendships and opportunities, Dahlberg credits the rodeo team for instilling time management skills into her. She said traveling to rodeos, tending to her horse and keeping up with her schoolwork is a considerable workload and requires dedication.
With the team’s first official rodeo of the season quickly approaching, Dahlberg said she feels ready, but will continue practicing and trying to make improvements in her runs.
“As for goals for the year, I’m just trying to have a solid season,” Dahlberg said. “Staying healthy so we’re able to compete and not getting hurt has apparently been a struggle for us in the past.”