Posted: May 12, 2013 8:28 PM by Peter Terpstra
Updated: May 13, 2013 9:30 AM
MARSHALL- Your typical day for a college athlete: hit class--after all, you have to pass your finals--some cafeteria food, then it's time for Chelsey Merrigan to practice.
"It teaches them discipline. More than anything it's discipline," said Missouri Valley Rodeo Coach Ken Mason
"Everyone who comes to college to compete in rodeo can win," Merrigan said.
Winning is something Missouri Valley Rodeo knows. They have placed in the top 4 in the nation for the past four years.
"It's in our life. I know it's something I want to do for the rest of my life," Merrigan said. "It's what I want my kids to do. It's a lifestyle."
Saddling up is second nature to Merrigan.
She is one of nine Missouri Valley cowboys and cowgirls to trip to the National Championships in June.
And she'll tell you it has nothing to do with luck.
"People say that all the time, but you make your own luck," Merrigan said. "You practice to be a champion. And it shows up in the end."
"It's not like you grab a set of tennis shoes and get on the bus," said Missouri Valley Rodeo Coach Ken Mason. "The kids might get out of class on Wednesday night and jump in a truck and trailer and go to Troy, Alabama. They'll have to stop two or three times to exercise and keep them limbered up. They'll get their sleep for three hours and then compete."
Grass roots people, doing grass roots things. There is not a lot of luxury for this group.
"We travel a lot. We miss school a lot," Merrigan said. "It's definitely something that you have to love and be dedicated to. "You know, driving 12 hours...you have to love what you do to drive 12 hours to do something."
Rodeo athletes provide their own horses, pay their own travel expenses and they take care of their own livestock.
"When I watch professional sports sometimes I think, 'Oh my gosh, these guys are making several million dollars a year and they have no respect or no camaraderie for one another," Mason said. "And that won't fly in our sport."
"To me and a lot a of kids, it gives them a purpose to be here and to do well in school, to go to class and to be successful," Merrigan said.
It might not be a sport in the spotlight, but they say it's worth the ride.