Fresno State Bulldoggers Saddle Up

Fresno State Bulldoggers Rodeo coach Uhuru Adem (center) instructing rodeo team members during a practice. (Ron Camacho/Clovis Roundup)

The Fresno State Bulldoggers Rodeo team is riding to the university’s 2020 Collegiate Rodeo Competition better than ever before.

The team only consisted of 10 members when Uhuru Adem joined as an undergrad in 2012.

Now Adem coaches the Bulldoggers, which is 43 members strong.

“They all have different ideas on a lot of stuff,” Adem told the Roundup at one of the team’s afternoon practices. “But they do good, they all get along. In practice they are always helping each other so they are all really good together.”

The team practices at 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. They are saddling up for the upcoming Fresno State College Rodeo March 6 and 7 at the Clovis Rodeo grounds. The competition is one of 10 rodeos the Bulldoggers compete in.

“We have kids in all the events, we have people go to the nationals and they calf rope and do team roping, bareback riding. We do all the events,” Adem said.

Like many of the students he coaches, Adem’s life revolves around the rodeo. The son of a cattle rancher, Adem began riding horses when he was just 3 years old.

He said rodeo is more than just a sport; it is a way of life.

“I love the horsemanship and competitiveness, all mashed up into one. And you get to do this with your friends, you can want to win but also want to see your friend win too,” he said.

The sentiment is shared by many of the Bulldoggers.

Stevie Scott, an 18-year-old who is majoring in business, said rodeo is a world of its own.

“I love the atmosphere of rodeo, the friendly competitiveness, being able to have a connection with your animals and the life-long friends you make. It is a wonderful world to live in, it is more of a world than just a sport,” she said.

Scott, whose parents were professional rodeo athletes, is only at the beginning of what she expects will be a long rodeo career.

“My mom says I was born on a horse. She was riding when she was pregnant with me and all my life I’ve ridden horses,” she said. “I most definitely plan on staying in rodeo. It is a lifelong sport for most of us out here and I can see myself staying in it for most of my life.”

She said she is ready to give her all at the upcoming collegiate rodeo.

“I’m hoping to do the best that I can, to place would be fantastic, but I am a freshman and there is a really tough competition out there,” she said.

Sam Seifert, 21, is majoring in agriculture business and began riding horses and lassoing calves when he was 8 years old.

He said he has stayed involved in the sport to hone his roping skills.

“The thing that has kept me involved the most is the competitiveness. The two events I do I’ve always wanted to get better at…There’s a drive that makes you keep wanting to come back,” he said.

Seifert is confident he will do well in the team roping and calf roping events.

“Calf roping is the most fun for me, it kind of gives you an adrenaline rush, that’s what I enjoy the most,” he said.

Elizabeth Stewart, a 19-year-old majoring in agriculture business, also loves the competitiveness of the sport.

“The competition, the drive, the determination to win is what keeps me in it,” Stewart said. “I know I am a pretty self-motivated and goal-oriented person. When I put my mind to something, I usually try my best to get there. Sometimes it takes years. Rodeo is not easy at all so it takes a long time to get good at, even longer to master.”

Not all of the Bulldoggers have years of experience, however.

Agriculture education major Ivalinn Palmer, 18, grew up riding horses, but she only recently became involved with rodeo when she joined the Bulldoggers last August.

“I have always loved racing, I wish I started junior rodeo in high school, but I never did so I figured college was the time to start,” Palmer said. “Since I’m new I’ve had to do a lot of learning, it’s not that it’s really difficult, it’s just what is setting me back the most.

But thanks to the help of her teammates, Palmer is quickly learning the ropes.

“Even though we all come from different backgrounds, we are family. We all help each other get better,” Palmer said. “The seniors have been really helpful helping me learn. I feel that with rodeo, people want you to do better because we are a team, rather than other sports where it’s individual.”

Adem, who took over as coach of the Bulldoggers in 2018, said coaching a diverse team of rodeo athletes with varying levels of experience comes with its fair share of challenges.

But watching someone work at something until they reach success is one of the most rewarding aspects of coaching the Bulldoggers, he said.

“I love watching somebody work at something and then prevail,” he said. “I just want to see success, whether it is inside the arena or outside the arena.”

Ron Camacho was born and raised in Clovis. He attended Clovis High School and graduated from CSU Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. Before joining the Roundup, Ron wrote for Pollstar Magazine and the Sanger Herald. He has a deep appreciation for the arts and is a lover of music, cinema and storytelling. When he’s not busy looking for his next story, Ron enjoys taking weekend expeditions to the beach or mountains to practice landscape photography.