By Bella Butler EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY – Under a radiant pink sky and with fans new and old gracing the stands, the Montana State University Rodeo Team provided a unique and unprecedented rodeo experience on July 19 at the Big Sky Rodeo.
The format of the rodeo, which was produced by Outlaw Partners and Freestone Productions, began with an educational component. Rodeo participants demonstrated a selection of rodeo disciplines while rodeo announcer Matt West explained each event to the audience.
Following the demonstrations, young rodeo studs-in-the-making took a shot at the events, including riding mini bulls and mutton busting. MSU athletes closed out the night and had attendees on their feet as they competed in groups of four in a winner-take-all style championship round. Winners from each event earned points toward qualifying for the World Champions Rodeo Alliance, a professional rodeo competition that offers big money prizes to winners.
While vying for a spot in a professional rodeo, MSU rodeo athletes also have the added challenge of attending school as full-time students working toward degrees. Andy Bolich, the rodeo team’s head coach of five years, counts the team’s dedication to both academics and the sport as one of its greatest strengths.
Bolich was full of praises after the first event of its kind in Big Sky. “It was a good experience to let people see [the rodeo] lifestyle and share our heritage with people that probably aren’t that familiar with rodeo,” Bolich said.
Bolich added that the winner-take-all style of competition encourages athletes to take risks and give it their all. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, he said. But whether they end the night with a victorious ride or not, it is a remarkable thing to witness.
“That’s just rodeo,” Bolich said.
See below for competition results.