(Argo Athletics Media Release)
BILLINGS, Mont. – Just eight years into its existence as a varsity program, the University of Providence rodeo team has earned the highest honors in the state of Montana, with the program being inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame on Saturday, January 27, 2018. UP’s seniors joined its coaching staff in traveled down to Billings, Montana for the induction as part of the organization’s 13th Annual Scholarship and Fundraising Banquet & Gathering.
UP joins a list of collegiate programs to be inducted into the hall of fame that includes University of Montana Western and Montana State University, but UP is certainly the youngest.
“It surprised me a whole bunch because I didn’t really think we’d even be in consideration,” Head Coach Dick Lyman said. “I asked them why they considered us, and they said that for as young as we are, we’ve had really good success and that they’ve heard really good feedback from our kids about our school,”
Despite its youth, UP rodeo has elevated the status of rodeo as a collegiate sport as one of the few varsity programs in the state. Over the past three years, UP has sent athletes to the College National Finals Rodeo, but in 2017 the one Argo and one Lady Argo to qualify for nationals burst UP onto the national scene.
Then junior Cache Hill became the program’s highest placer at nationals, taking fourth in the bareback, while fellow junior Abigail Knight wasn’t far behind, taking sixth in barrel racing.
Along with bringing rodeo to the varsity level at UP, Lyman brought the NIRA Big Sky Regional Finals to Great Falls in 2016 and has hosted it ever since. The event, held in the Four Seasons Arena, has been a huge success with strong attendance numbers and positive feedback from the rest of the region. The event was also broadcast on cable television for the first time in 2017 with replays running on the SWX Network throughout the summer.
The promotional and event success of that rodeo were also factors in the program’s induction.
The Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame is a non-profit corporation dedicated to honoring Montana professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls who exemplify our Montana western heritage. Along with maintaining a monument site for the wall of fame outside the MetraPark Arena in Billings, Montana, the corporation also runs a scholarship program to assist Montana high school students further their education and pursue their interest in rodeo at the collegiate level.
Among those to have received past scholarship awards from the organization are current Lady Argos Bailey Escott, who ranks eighth in the region in breakaway roping, and Kristine Paske. Current UP Assistant Rodeo Coach Sylvan LaCross, who is still a professional cowboy, was also a recipient receiving the scholarship back in 2006 as part of the first class or recipients.
All three of those scholarship earners along with the rest of the UP rodeo seniors attended the event and got to mingle with some of the top names in professional rodeo.
“It was really exciting to be able to take the kids down there. They got to rub elbows with some legends that have been around the rodeo industry forever,” Lyman said. “I’ve been very proud of my kids this whole time. They’re a good group and it was just a really good finish for them in their senior season.”
The indication isn’t yet the finish for Escott, Paske, Hill, Knight, and the rest of the team, with the spring season, including the CNFR and the Big Sky Regional Finals still to go. The spring season begins with the Montana State University Rodeo on April 12.