Schlegel wins national bareback riding championships | VailDaily.com
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Schlegel wins national bareback riding championships

Ian Cropp
Special to the DailyJared Schlegel, center, was recently crowned the best college bareback rider. The Burns resident will return to Vernon College in Texas this fall.
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Every kid dreams big, and Jared Schlegel is no exception. When Schlegel was growing up, all he wanted to do was compete in a pro rodeo.

And as soon as Schlegel turned 18, he started riding bareback in pro events like the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and other big rodeos in Texas.

But Schlegel wasn’t done there. After he matriculated to rodeo powerhouse Vernon Community College in Texas on a rodeo scholarship, he decided the next step was to place in the top three at college regionals and qualify for the national championships.

Not only did Schlegel win this year’s Southwest Division bareback title, but he went on to capture nationals in Casper, Wyo.

“Regionals went pretty well,” Schlegel said. “(After that), I made it a goal to go to nationals and do well, and it worked out. I’m blessed, I guess.”

Not bad in his sophomore of college.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Schlegel said.

It took some clutch riding for Schlegel to claim the title of best collegiate bareback rider.

At the nationals, the bareback riders rode different horses for three 8-second rides. After the three rounds, the average scores were compiled, and the competition was whittled down to 12 riders. The final 12 were then given one more ride.

“I came back sitting in fourth place,” Schlegel said. “It was meant to be the way it worked out. I ended up drawing an outstanding horse. I was three points behind the leader, and I knew I was going to have to go for broke.

“I went out there, and (the horse) bucked outstanding, and I had a pretty decent ride.”

With a score of 86 out of 100, Schlegel topped all competitors in the round, and had enough to eclipse all the other riders.

Schlegel, who grew up on his family’s ranch in Burns, has been riding since he’s been able to walk. But he didn’t start competing in rodeos until he was 8, and bareback riding until 14, which is still rather young.

“We used to go to junior rodeos when I was younger,” Schlegel said. “The bareback was something I was interested in. I liked watching it. Finally when I was around that age, I got the urge and said, ‘I think I’m going to try it.’ At first I wasn’t any good, but I loved it, and I kept trying and kept working on it.”

Between watching professional riders on TV and older friends practicing, Schlegel picked up some of the nuances.

“I learned a lot by trial and error, and picked up most of it on my own,” Schlegel said.

When Schlegel went to Eagle Valley High School, he starred to ride in the high school rodeos.

“There’s a Colorado State High School Rodeo Association, but there weren’t enough kids around here to (have a team), so I went to all those on my own,” Schlegel said.

Schlegel went through the process that any prospective college athlete would go through, but it wasn’t necessary.

“I sent a video of myself competing, but the (Vernon) coach had been looking at me for a couple of years,” Schlegel said.

While in high school, Schlegel spent plenty of time riding, but also stared for the football and basketball teams. Schlegel was all-state as a defensive back and all-conference as a running back and point guard.

“All of these guys at rodeo are athletes,” Schlegel said. “You’ve gotta be in shape and fit. It really takes a toll on your body.”

Over the years, Schlegel has broken both of his arms and torn an ACL. This past winter, Schlegel separated his ribs, but he feel fortunate not to have been seriously injured in his career.

After Schlegel’s victory at nationals, however, he wasn’t about to take it easy.

“Now I’m going to a bunch of pro rodeos. That’s pretty much my job. When I’m at college, it’s the same deal.”

Last week, Schlegel traveled to Arizona, came back to Colorado, then went to Wyoming.

Schlegel isn’t shying away from heavy competition at the highest level.

“I want to be in that mix with those guys,” Schlegel said. “When you are competing with them, you’re getting better.”

And it’s not like Schlegel is struggling with the pros.

“I’ve been doing pretty well,” Schlegel said. “I’m winning a little money here and there. Enough to keep going.”

Eventually, Schlegel would like to compete in the National Finals Rodeo, and maybe even win the world championship.

But for now, he’s working on riding and finding some sponsors.

“I’m trying to get my name out there,” Schlegel said. “Hopefully, they’ll notice and say, ‘This kid can ride.'”

Anyone can say that, but a national championships usually speaks for itself.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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