Tarleton State University’s five-time goat tying qualifier for the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., has the routine down pat.
First, have a stellar regular season.
Graduate student Baili Collins did that, winning the event title in the highly competitive National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Southwest Region, her second regional championship. She also twice took regional reserve champion honors.
During the 2017-18 season, Collins won the first rodeo of the fall, at Eastern New Mexico, and finished in the top five in seven of 10 NIRA-sanctioned stops.
“Baili is a great competitor and very adaptable to each unique arena that she competes in,” said Tarleton women’s rodeo coach Brittany Bell. “I believe that her calm but determined demeanor makes her such a great athlete.”
Collins said one secret to her consistency comes from the wisdom of her grandfather, who tells her, “Don’t think. Concentrate.”
“I bet he has told me that for the last 10 years. That‘s something I still have to tell myself. Whenever I start thinking about things, it’s easy to overthink. I have to make myself quit thinking and focus on what’s in front of me. It’s zoning out all the little thoughts and putting my focus on the whole rather than on each little individual thing.”
Collins grew up in Leedey, Okla., where she played basketball and softball in high school. Her first love was basketball, but rodeo was in her DNA.
“My parents grew up in rodeo,” she said. “I’ve been around it my entire life. It was what would pay for school, so when it came down to it, it just made sense.”
Collins holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and is working on her master’s, but she realizes the June 8-16 CNFR is her last chance to represent Tarleton in the arena.
“I’ve had some of the best teammates I could have possibly imagined,” she said. “It’s a little sad it’s coming to an end.
“I love Stephenville and the school. If you want to be good, you need to go where the best people are. That’s why I chose to be here.”
Besides regular season success, Collins has the experience wrought from four trips to Casper.
“It’s special there. Last year I had a really good finals but the short go didn’t go my way. I got a really good taste of what it was like.
“One year, I prepared differently — I got myself a little too worked up over it. I’m trying to stay with the same routine this time. I work out consistently, tying every day, and concentrate on what’s right in front of me.”
Her horse, Jose, gets a big part of the credit for her success, she said. Then there’s the school, her parents and her coaches.
“Huge ‘thank yous’ to Tarleton and the administration,” she said. “They’ve been awesome. So have my coaches. They’ve helped me out as much as I could ask. And my parents have been there for me since the beginning.”
Her support team is expanding this year, too.
Collins, who expects to graduate with her MBA in December, is getting married this fall.
“The CNFR in June, the wedding in October, and graduation in December,” she said. “It’s shaping up to be a busy year.”
Starting next week.