Raiders put work ethic on display at home rodeo

Three Rivers' Harley Staggs competes in the goat tying competition during the Three Rivers rodeo on Thursday in Sikeston.

SIKESTON — Last year’s Three Rivers rodeo nearly won rodeo of the year for the Ozark Region despite the cold, rainy weather keeping fans away.

The work to make this year’s one and only home event even better started three months ago, and the weather is perfect.

It’s a herculean task to put on a top quality show, and while the Three Rivers team is glad to have a home event, they’re also glad they don’t have one every week.

“They’ve been working their tail off. I’m super proud of them,” Three Rivers coach Chad Phipps said of his Raiders. “They have to work around competing. Some of them work right up until the time they compete, then they go jump on their horse or whatever, and then jump right back off and are doing it again.”

The bucking horses are from North Carolina and Louisiana. The Bulls are from Illinois. The timed event animals came from Tennessee. Some of the Raiders helped haul the livestock.

There were many sponsorships to sell, because without those, the expensive event wouldn’t happen in the first place. There were schools to visit, kids to talk to, tickets to give away.

“We had to hang banners (Wednesday), we had to power wash some bucking shoots, we had to make sure all the stock were taken care of and everything was clean and tidied up looking,” said Three Rivers Raider Rylee Gannon, who also helped handle goats for the goat tying competition.

The work rate picked up Monday. The team drove out to Sikeston, where the home event is held, after their classes were finished and worked until about 8 p.m. They worked all week and worked around their classes, which they try to schedule in the morning.

Before the event started Thursday, the Raiders got together and ran the steers and calfs through to get them ready and equal for everyone.

“As a team, we all worked together,” Three Rivers Raider Madison Steele said.

The work continues through the three-day event that wraps up Saturday night with a 7 p.m. start, but things are getting better each day.

“Last night to me was really bumpy. A lot of stuff behind the scenes that people watching the rodeo probably didn’t notice,” Phipps said. “It went good, but little stuff like that. Last year, with it being the first time we did it here, we had a lot of stuff we didn’t know like how things would operate, how to work, different things. We got that figured out, so it’s a lot smoother this year and it’s getting smoother every day.”

The rodeo team has even enlisted other Raiders to help out.

“I’m really glad they’re able to jump in and help us out. It takes a village to get this thing going and help run smooth,” Steele said.

Each night, a team or two from Three Rivers, including the band, is doing something. From directing parking lot traffic to working gates and picking up trash. It’s a family affair that started at the beginning of the school year when the rodeo team hosted everyone at the farm where they practice.

There are Raiders from big cities and different countries, from Chicago, New York, Senegal and Nigeria. For some, that day on the farm was their first time around a horse.

“Every year there’s basketball players from different countries, baseball players, basketball players, never touched a horse or anything. And just to see them when they ride a horse, the smile on their face, it brings people to our sport that may not be there originally to start with. I think it’s awesome,” Phipps said.

This week’s rodeo was the first time some of the Raiders have been to one. On Thursday, softball teammates Jenny Morey and Blair Quarles were working the east gate together.

For Morey, who is from Van Buren, it was her first rodeo. She said she was looking forward to the steer wrestling.

“That sounded interesting. I don’t know how they would do it, so I’m anxious,” Morey said.

Quarles, of White Hall, Ark., had been to many growing up. She was a source of knowledge for teammates with questions.

“I asked it if it was OK to wear cowboy boots,” said Mary Yandell, also attending her first rodeo and working with much of the softball team to help pickup trash.

Added Quarles, “I left my cowgirl boots and hat at home … I told them I’m not wearing it, but you can.”

On Friday, the band, baseball and women’s basketball teams made the trip to Sikeston. Autumn Dodd and Brogan Jones were assigned to the same gate where Morey and Quarles worked the day before.

Unfamiliar to the sport, both were curious about bull riding.

“It’s dangerous. Kind of sexy,” Jones said.

Added Dodd, “It’s edgy.”

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