Man v. beast: CSC cowboy holds on tight
Sitting on the back of a 2,000 pound bull, he holds on to the flat braided rope with his riding hand, relying on nothing more than the strength of his legs and quick balance to keep him there. With a quick nod of his head, signaling he is ready, the gate to the chute flies open as the bull explodes into the arena. Holding on with all he has as he waits for the buzzer to sound, ending “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”
At the early age of 4, bull rider Dakota Rice, of Spirit Lake, Idaho, was introduced to rodeo by his dad. Starting out on sheep, Rice waited six years to get his first taste of the “ultimate adrenaline rush” during a miniature bull riding competition at the Lincoln County Fair in Shoshone, Idaho.
“It scared me so bad I almost peed my pants,” Rice said. “But I loved it so much I haven’t stopped riding since.”
After making the 2016 College National Finals Rodeo and being named as the Central Rocky Mountain Region Student Director, the 22-year-old junior has made quite a name for himself during his time at Chadron State.
Beginning his education in fire science at Mid-Plains Community College, North Platte, and later transferring to CSC to pursue math education, he knew that the two schools would give him the best of both worlds.
“I love both coaches and what they bring to the table,” Rice said. “Dustin Elliott (of MidPlains) taught me how to represent myself to the public in a professional manner. Especially when it comes to things like appearance, taking interviews, and dealing with sponsors.
“Dustin Luper here in Chadron has been a big inspiration to me as well. He has a care-free attitude, which is really important in rodeo because you have to be able to take failure and move past it. I’ve learned so much from him about how to be successful in the arena, as well as in life. These two men have made a tremendous impact on my life, in ways I’ll never be able to repay them.”
He spends the majority of his practice time working on his technique and riding style. He spoke specifically of his three favorite riders—Dustin Elliot, J.B. Mauney, and Jess Lockwood—and the special energy they bring when they ride. Aside from practicing on the drop barrel that he and his dad built together to simulate a bull bucking, he credited the majority of his training to mental preparation and visualization.
“Yogi Berra said, ‘90 percent of the game is half mental,’” Rice said. “You can’t expect to ride a good percentage of your bulls if you are fighting your head before you ever get on.
“I picture myself riding bulls all the time, many times a day. I’ll be turning a corner into a classroom and just imagine being on a bull that is turning that direction. It’s those little things that prepare my mind to react at the speed it needs to on top of a bull.”
After graduation Rice said he would like to place his focus on his teaching career. In the meantime, however, his main goal is to win the College National Finals and be the first bull rider to bring the title back to CSC since Elliot in 2001.
Rice says he performs best by staying mentally tough, physically aggressive, and spiritually focused.
“My parents always raised me to believe that my character is more important than any championship I could win,” Rice said. “Ultimately, I want people to remember me by the example I set. I don’t want to be one of those people that wears my emotions on my sleeve and is hard to approach when in a riding slump. I know that all my athletic ability comes from God, as does all the opportunities I’ve been given.
“I feel very blessed to be here at Chadron competing with all the amazing bull riders around me. Having a relationship with God has always been my anchor though. Whether I’m riding well, or have been bucked off 13 straight bulls, I know that his goodness in my life is overwhelming to think about, so win or lose I praise him.”