By Kendra Cates
CASPER, Wyoming – One of the most prestigious awards in college rodeo is going to Katie Rice from Clements, California who just graduated from Cal Poly State University – San Luis Obispo.
The Walt Garrison Award, given through the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), was established in honor of former Dallas Cowboys’ football player and professional cowboy, Walt Garrison. This award highlights numerous qualities that make up a true overall cowboy or cowgirl such as loyalty, honesty, commitment, perseverance, and integrity. The recipient is given a $2,500 scholarship.
The NIRA consists of 11 geographic regions with each region nominating one student athlete to be considered for the Walt Garrison Award. The NIRA Board of Directors then votes for the winner, and the award is given to that individual during the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper, Wyoming.
Katie Rice, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate, has been nominated for the award by the West Coast Region for four consecutive years. This is an accomplishment in itself showcasing the reputation she has created within her region and the positive influence she has had on her fellow student athletes.
Kayla Norcutt, West Coast Region Student Director from Western Nevada College, nominated Rice this year for many reasons. They are both competing at the CNFR in breakaway roping and goat tying. Throughout Rice’s time at Cal Poly, she has made the CNFR three times in the breakaway roping and goat tying, and has won the region in these events as well.
“She is constantly trying to help with anything the region needs and she’s an advocate for the rules,” Norcutt said. “As a person, she is the nicest girl you can find. I have not found a more genuine person to be around and a more genuine competitor.”
Rice is a natural leader, which is shown in her roles as Team Captain for the Cal Poly Rodeo Team throughout her four years, and as the Regional Breakaway Director the last three. Her coach, Ben Londo, feels extremely lucky to have Katie on his team.
“It’s not very often that you have a student that is talented, dedicated, and helpful to her entire team as Katie is,” Londo said. “I lucked out to get her my first year, and I assume it’s rare to get a person like that.”
On Tuesday evening during the CNFR performance, Rice was presented the Walt Garrison Award, and she feels incredibly honored. The $2,500 scholarship will go towards her master’s degree.
“I think very highly of the other nominees,” she said. “To even be considered for this award is an honor.”
With her acceptance into the Agricultural Education master’s program at Cal Poly, she is eligible for another year of rodeo. She will have the opportunity to continue to lead and inspire her fellow competitors as the assistant rodeo coach.