Seven members of the university’s women’s national championship rodeo teams and a former rodeo program student director were inducted as inaugural honorees into the Tarleton Rodeo Hall of Fame during the third annual steak dinner and auction Nov. 3.
Inductees into the newly created Tarleton Rodeo Hall of Fame include the 1969-71 women’s championship team members: Angie Watts Averhoff, Vicki Higgins Emerson, Sally Preston, Karen Walls, Connie Wilkinson Wood, Martha Tompkins Wright and Sharon Harrison Youngblood. Hadley Reed, the 1989 Southwest Regional Champion saddle bronc rider, was also among the inaugural Hall of Fame inductees.
Each honoree was presented with a bronze Rodeo Hall of Fame medallion by university President F. Dominic Dottavio before several hundred former and current Tarleton cowboys and cowgirls, rodeo program supporters and friends of the university who gathered for the ceremony and annual dinner.
Tarleton’s renowned rodeo program is known for having some of the toughest and most talented student competitors among National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) members. To celebrate their achievements during the past 65 years, the Rodeo Hall of Fame was established to recognize some of the cowboys and cowgirls who have brought notoriety to the sport and university.
Averhoff was a member of the 1969 and 1970 NIRA Southwest Region and national championship teams, and also captured the 1969 national title in goat tying and regional championship in 1970. In back-to-back years, she also won the All-Around title at the College National Finals Rodeo (1969-70). In 2000, Averhoff was inducted into Stephenville’s Cowboy Capitol Walk of Fame. Following a 38-year career as a public school teacher, Averhoff continues to enjoy breakaway and team roping.
Emerson was a member of the 1970 NIRA national championship team, and the following year won five All-Around championships and nine team championships in the Southwest Region as a roper and goat tier. Also a member of the Cowboy Capitol Walk of Fame, Emerson spent her professional life as an educator before retiring in 2003.
Preston, a champion roper and barrel racer, was the first woman to win the NIRA national championship breakaway roping title during the 1969 College National Finals Rodeo. A member of Tarleton’s 1969 and 1970 national women’s rodeo team, Preston also captured the 1969 Southwest Region breakaway roping title which helped lift Tarleton to consecutive regional titles in 1969-70. Preston also served as the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s pro rodeo director from 1982-85, and qualified for the WPRA’s All-Girls Finals from 1981-85.
Walls qualified for the NIRA finals in 1966 and two years later finished second in the region as a barrel racer. In 1969, she captured the region’s barrel racing championship and was a member of Tarleton’s first championship girl’s team. Walls went on to teach and coach for 32 years after her collegiate rodeo career. She is currently a member of the Texas Barrel Racing Association and West Texas Barrel Racing Association, serving on the board of directors for both organizations.
Wood won the 1968 West Texas barrel racing title, 1970 Southwest Region championship and earned the 1970 NIRA world champion title while on the Tarleton rodeo team.
Wright was the Southwest Region champion barrel racer in 1971-72, and earned the NIRA’s barrel racing title in 1971. That same year, she was named the WPRA Rookie of the Year and qualified for the CNFR. Wood repeated her qualifications at CNFR in 1989 and has captured numerous barrel racing futurity and derby championships. She has been inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, and in 2000 Wright was awarded the Tad Lucas Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center.
Youngblood, also a member of Tarleton’s NIRA championship women’s team, continued to rodeo beyond her collegiate career winning the Arkansas Barrel Futurity in 1979 and qualified for the NFR in 1980. In 1982, she won both the North Texas Barrel Futurity and the Colorado Barrel Futurity, and in 1986-87 Youngblood won the breakaway roping title in the Texas Cowboys Rodeo Association.
Reed was the Southwest Region champion saddle bronc rider in 1989 and finished second in the region in 1987. He served as student director from 1987-89, and briefly served as Tarleton’s rodeo coach beginning in 1989. That year, the men’s team won the regional championship while the women finished as runners-up. He continued to ride broncs and rope steers in the PRCA following college, and now enjoys rodeo with his two sons in the high school association.
Competing for the purple and white under the motto, “A Winning Tradition,” Tarleton’s rodeo teams have won six national championship titles, 19 individual national championships, and numerous NIRA Southwest Region titles since the program was established in 1947. In 2011-12, Tarleton boasted one of the largest rodeo teams in the nation with 115 card-holding student members.