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New Mexico State University rodeo team members made the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association's list of Scholar American Honors, topping more than 60 other colleges and universities throughout the nation.
Nine of NMSU's rodeo team members were named to the list, more than any other university. They qualified for this honor by maintaining a cumulative 3.5 grade point average, while also receiving points at a sanctioned rodeo.
"I was told a long time ago, in College Rodeo you can't do college and rodeo without the other," said Jim Brown, NMSU rodeo coach.
Each year the NIRA, based in Walla Walla, Wash., honors students from 11 different regions and 126 different institutions.
"It's a great achievement. It means you made it to the finals, you've done well in the arena and you've done well in school," said Bo Simpson, rodeo team member and recipient of the Scholar American Honor.
Brown ensures the students are in an environment that complements both academics and rodeo.
"Jim really focuses on school," Simpson said. "Being on the rodeo team really makes you learn where your priorities are."
Provided through college rodeo are many incentives to competing at the collegiate level, including scholarships.
"If you look at college rodeo financially, it's not easy to do," Simpson said. "It's a big reward to be on scholarship."
"You'll see a lot of schools that are more focused on winning championships and not emphasizing school," Brown said.
Despite the many rewards of being on the team, members must designate time for homework while attending out of town competitions and being on the road.
"A lot of the time we'll be coming back from rodeo on Sunday and have class early the next morning, so you have to plan it out," Simpson said. "It's definitely helped me organize my time better."
Another benefit has been the lifelong friendships and connections Simpson said he has received since he began, five years ago.
"We're a big family," Simpson said.
The men's rodeo team is currently number one in the region with three wins and seven rodeos left for the upcoming season.
Winners included Wade Baize, Brett Burke, Brandi Pfeifer, Clancy Phillips, Bo Simpson, Kendra Stineman, Jenna Suazo, Olivia Train and Russell VanSoelen.
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