Chris Gateley | Mustang News

The largest collegiate rodeo in the nation built upon the success of last year’s performance as the 78th annual Poly Royal Rodeo returned to Alex G. Spanos Stadium April 13-14. The program has expanded in recent years, with new students joining and improvements being made to the
rodeo grounds.

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At the Cinch Jeans Chute-Out Friday night, the Cal Poly team took second in two events. Cal Poly agriculture graduate student Courtney Wood won first in goat tying. Saturday was the finals for qualifying rounds held earlier this week followed by performances by country act Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band and country singer Aaron Watson. Cowboys and cowgirls competed in nine events over the two days of competition, including bareback riding, barrel racing, saddle bronc, breakaway roping and tie-down roping. The rodeos also included motorcycle stunts, clown acts and more.

“It is honestly so incredible, I’m graduating this year and to have seen this thing go from a little rodeo that we had at our practice arena to something that’s in the football stadium is absolutely incredible,” Cal Poly Rodeo Team President Cierra McClure said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

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Cal Poly Rodeo coach Ben Londo said the expansion of the Poly Royal Rodeo has been an incredible experience.

“I tell you what, it still [kind of] takes you back. To be down here in a stadium this size, especially for a lot of these college students who this is probably the biggest rodeo they ever get to compete in,” Londo said. “This is probably the biggest and most attended rodeo they’ve been to and it’s neat to be a part of that, to be able to provide that experience for them.”

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As a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) cowboy since 2003, Londo has amassed a long list of achievements, including three-time Saddle Bronc Champion for the Columbia River Circuit. Before he began competing in the PRCA, Londo earned Bareback Riding and All-Around Championship titles for two years running at the College National Finals Rodeo during his time on the Cal Poly Rodeo team.

“I think back at my time at Cal Poly and when I was in college rodeo and to be able to have an opportunity to do this would have been unreal and I know a lot of these students really appreciate that opportunity,” Londo said.

For the current Cal Poly rodeo team members, the experience of competing in front of thousands of fans is unique, especially for the students who have been a part of the expansion to Spanos Stadium.

“My favorite part about competing is the adrenaline rush. It’s safe to say that all of us are adrenaline junkies,” McClure said. “As far as being the president, I have met so many cool people working with different organizations and getting to know my teammates better too, so that was pretty cool for me.”

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Students who have only experienced the rodeo under Spanos Stadium’s bright lights still consider it a thrilling experience.

“It’s such an experience to see all these people come together,” Cal Poly 2018 Rodeo Queen Jane Wood said. “[There are] so many fans rooting us on, it’s such a great experience for not only our horses but us as well to be in an atmosphere that would most likely be at a PRCA rodeo.”

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