July 1, 2022

Rodeo is back at USU Eastern


It’s been over two decades since a rodeo program was part of this college. If fact, the two coaches: Leon McElprang and Monte Jensen plus his wife Jill, were part of the final rodeo program in 1994 at the College of Eastern Utah.
Fast forward to 2016 and the three former collegiate rodeo participants, were ecstatic to host USU Eastern’s rodeo featuring 11 colleges from Utah, Colorado and Idaho with 300 participants.
What they were not ecstatic about was the unprecedented rain that was relentless in Eastern Utah the past two weeks. Monte laughed when he described Utah State University’s rodeo the week before in Logan. “They had six inches of sitting water on their ground last week, so the Price arena was actually not as bad.”
Staging a rodeo took the three advisers the best part of four months to organize and “we had a ton of volunteer help,” Monte said. We had 20 community members helping and we could not have done it without them.
Greg Dart, vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management, agreed with Monte. “Our community support has been tremendous. From Carbon County, to our sponsors to individuals, there is an excitement for USU Eastern rodeo.”
“We felt like if we took the right steps we could lay the foundation for rodeo for years to come. That foundation is now set,” Dart added. Monte plans to have an annual rodeo at Eastern and hopefully each year it will grow.
USU Eastern is part of the Rocky Mountain Region which includes Dixie, Southern Utah University, Snow, Utah Valley University, USU, Mesa State University, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Weber State University, Idaho State University and College of Southern Idaho.
The Rocky Mountain Region is part of 11 regions: Big Sky, Central Plains, Central Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, Great Plains, Northwest, Ozark, Southern, Southwest and West Coast.
Each region hosts 10 rodeos with the top two schools in each region invited to attend the College National Rodeo hosted in Casper, Wyo. “There are 7,000 to 8,000 students involved in collegiate rodeo each year; this is a big time sport,” Monte said.
Fall semester, Eastern students traveled to rodeos at SUU, Idaho State and USU and will compete in six rodeos spring semester 2017.
Each rodeo has 10 events including the riding categories of saddle bronc, bareback and bull. Other events include tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping header and heeler, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.
Lacy McElprang was Eastern’s top scorer with a second-place finish in breakaway, earning 130 points which places her fourth in region. She also competes in barrel racing.
Eastern’s Zac Jensen roped quick, but a broken barrier cost him going to the short go in tiedown roping. He also competes in team roping.
Why bring rodeo back to USU Eastern? “Because it was a way to get our community involved and many students from this area do well on the national level so it seemed like a natural fit, Monte said. We want the program to grow and have five or six students interested in the program next year with one from Canada thinking about joining us in the fall.
“There has been a desire to add rodeo back at Utah State University Eastern for a number of years. The hurdle was always how to manage all the work that goes into an endeavor such as this. Jensen and McElprang have taken the reigns and have done something extraordinary,” Dart said. “Rodeo is such an important part of the fabric of our community. Having rodeo at USU Eastern gives us a connection to the community that we cannot have any other way.”

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