Four athletes from New Mexico Highlands University will compete in the College National Finals Rodeo in June, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association has announced.
The College National Finals Rodeo is scheduled June 13-19 in Casper, Wyo. Representing Highlands University at the finals will be Jesse Estrada, Dixie Richards, Dirk Tavenner and Sarah Zybach.
A 2008 Robertson High School graduate, Jesse Estrada has qualified for nationals for the second year in a row, in bareback riding. Estrada was also a 2009 Grand Canyon Regional Champion in his event.
Estrada is also known for his success in the football field, having starred for the Robertson Cardinals as a running back and linebacker. His coach at RHS was Chad Roanhaus, presently Highlands University head football coach. Estrada’s accomplishments in football include two state championships and one runner-up finish. He received two all-district and two all-state selection and was named MVP as a senior. He was selected to play in the North-South All Star game won by the North in 2008.
Estrada has completed his sophomore year at Highlands and as a junior will be pursuing a degree in environmental science and agricultural economics. His parents are Dan and Lillian Estrada from Trementina.
Dixie Richards is a freshman from Winnecucca, Nev., and is the 2010 Grand Canyon Regional winner in goat tying; she will compete in that event at the college finals. Richards was presented with her Grand Canyon Regional Championship saddle at the Las Cruces Regional Finals this past weekend.
She is a graduate of Albert Lowry High School and in 2008 won the high school rodeo championship in goat tying. In 2008 she received a high school advanced honors diploma and was inducted into the National Society of High School Scholars.
Ending her freshman year at Highlands, Richards made the 2010 Academic All-American. Her parents are Roger and Diana Richards.
Dirk Tavenner is a freshman from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He graduated from Rigby High School where he was a 2009 National High School Rodeo qualifier and an all-state running back.
Tavenner was a runner-up for the Grand Canyon Region in steer wrestling and qualified in this event for the college finals in Wyoming. His parents are Byron and Laura Tavenner.
Sarah Zybach has qualified for Nationals in Goat Tying; this is her third consecutive qualification to the National Finals. She is graduating from Highlands magna cum laude, and while attending Highlands, she has consistently been on the Dean’s List, Academic Honor-Roll, and Academic All-American for the last two years.
After graduation at Highlands, Sarah will return to her home town of Briscoe, Texas, where she will be preparing for her May 22 wedding. Sarah’s fiancé is Dustin Pool, a calf roper, team roper, steer wrestler and team member. Sarah’s parents are Royce and Deedy Zybach.
Jon Peek is approaching three years as rodeo coach for Highlands University. Peek attributes his success to the caliber of athletes and academic achievers on his team. Earlier this spring, Peek was faced with the possibility of Highlands terminating the rodeo team from its athletic department due to budget constraints. He has worked since then to save it, aided by a late state appropriation. Even after a considerable budget cut to the rodeo team, the team prevailed and did not miss one of the 10 rodeos on their season’s schedule. To compete within their region requires extensive travel for the athletes and their rodeo stock.
Those athletes who qualified for this year’s College National Finals do not attend with all expenses paid. There are no funds available for the athletes to compete and as a result will have to raise the money to attend.
Those who would like to make a donation to the Highlands University rodeo team may contact Jon Peek at 505-426-4557.