“This is a place where you can get good at what you want to do.”
Roping steers and riding bulls may not seem like typical extracurricular activities for college students, but at Lakeland College, they’re par for the course. About 31 students participate on the team, making it one of the biggest college rodeo teams competing in Western Canada. The team practises three nights a week in the equine riding arena located on the Vermilion campus.
There are other Alberta colleges that have rodeo teams, but none are as active as the team from Lakeland. The team is equally divided between men and women, with participants hailing from Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia. All team members have rural roots and most have a background in high school rodeo.
Participants in the rodeo club major in a variety of areas including business, environmental studies and agricultural studies. Students participating in the rodeo events are between 18 and 20 years old, although students of any age are eligible. The rodeo team is also an incentive for some of the students to choose the college for their education.
Ashley Nickolson, the 19-year-old president of the rodeo club, chose to attend Lakeland College due to the strong rodeo club. Nickolson, originally from Coronach, Sask., was offered a partial scholarship due to her activities in rodeo. She participates in team roping, breakaway roping and pole bending. Nickolson is studying environmental protection technology at the college. She participated in high school rodeo and says that she has made good friends through her activities with Lakeland’s rodeo team. She is one of five students attending the college on a rodeo scholarship.
Rusty Quam is the full-time rodeo co-ordinator for Lakeland College. Quam grew up in a family of stock contractors, and has a lifetime love of barrel racing to qualify her for her unique job. She spends about 30 hours a week co-ordinating the activities for the college rodeo team. Having the arena right on campus allows the students to ride every day and ensures that they can easily make it to practice. “This is a place where you can get good at what you want to do,” says Quam.
The students at Lakeland are enthusiastic about their rodeo team, and bring in experts to help them hone their rodeo skills. Special guest instructors have included Glen O’Niell, a world champion saddle bronc rider, and Billy Laye, an expert bareback rider.
Quam ensures the students have good roping stock to practise their techniques. The students participate in all the major rodeo events which include team roping, breakaway, pole bending, barrel racing, goat tying, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding.
“College rodeo gets you ready for the next step up, the actual rodeo associations,” says Quam.
Quam, who began her job as rodeo co-ordinator in January, says she has seen a huge improvement in the students’ rodeo skills since she began. She praises the community and the college for their enthusiastic support of the team, and has only good things to say about the hard work and dedication of team members.
Lakeland’s college rodeo team is no stranger to awards. During the National College Finals held in Edmonton in March, students won six titles. Scott Sigfusson, one of the team members, was the high point cowboy at the finals and was named Cowboy of the Year for the second consecutive year. This award is voted on by the Canadian Intercollegiate Rodeo Association participants. The college rodeo season includes rodeos in October, November and March.