By MADELEINE SHERRIER/Montana State News
Sarah Wright is not what you would imagine the Montana State Rodeo Team’s All Around Cowgirl award-winning athlete to be like. With long, hot-pink acrylic nails and even longer perfectly curled blonde hair extensions, she does not portray the popular image of a “tomboy” that participating in the rodeo would suggest. And she is proud of it.
Recognizable from the stands by her pink boots and matching saddle decorations, Wright has come to realize the irony in her personality.
“Before I came out here (Montana) everyone in my town just knew the way that I was,” Wright says, “so I never heard anything about it. But now I realize that a girl, who only wears pick, feels naked without fake nails, while driving a pick-up truck and flipping goats around could be considered a contradiction.”
At 19, the sophomore knows how she feels about the stereotype. Wright jokes, “It’s important to me that I don’t allow rodeo to define me. Sure I love it, but I also love the color pink. Is that really such a big deal?”
Wright’s teammate and friend Danielle Staudenmeyer notes her individuality.
“I am two years older than Sarah so I have been in rodeo longer than she has,” Staudenmeyer says. “And before she came, all of us girls (female rodeo team) were just rugged and no fun. Ever since she got here we all have so much fun and celebrate being feminine.”
Wright’s head coach Kate Sharon says, “Sarah is such a joy to be around, and although she may have a persona of Rodeo Barbie, don’t mess with her. She is a fierce competitor.”
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Wright started rodeo at the age of 10, along with her older brother and sister. Even though the siblings outgrew the sport, according to Wright, she was “hooked” and stayed with it all the way through her senior year in high school when she was awarded with a full-ride scholarship to Montana State University.
“I knew from the beginning that I really wanted to go to school here in the states. I think it is so cool how you can make your education take you places,” says Wright.
Once she visited all of the schools that offered scholarships she decided upon Bozeman because of the “vibe.” Wright says, “Yeah, when me and my mom visited for the first time I was just like ‘OK, so a majority of the student body are guys and there is an awesome night life. I’m in.’”
According to Sharon, Wright has been accepted as the only Canadian on the 50-member university rodeo team “family” even though she is still teased about her Canadian quirks of speech and her unlikely glamorous appearance.
Wright says, “My teammates still laugh when I say ‘eh’ at the end of a sentence which is so funny to me as well. But hey, I just need to be myself, I’ve tried being someone else before and it doesn’t work for me.”
Wright, known on campus as “Canada,” has done her team and country proud. She just won the goat tying competition at the spring collegiate rodeo competition held at Montana State University in early April, finishing first out of 79 competitors. According to her teammates she is always an extremely modest athlete and promotes respect amongst the members of the team.
Wright jokes, “The real victory that day was that my hair turned out perfectly. Don’t you just love that?”
Along with being a positive influence on her team, Wright manages to give back to her community in a big way by holding monthly events for single mothers and their children out at the facilities where her horses are kept.
“I was part of a similar program back in Canada and it gave me so much fulfillment that I decided to try starting up something similar down here on my own,” Wright says. “It’s all about girl power.”
The university rodeo team practices four hours each week day, and competes every weekend during the season. Despite a grueling practice and competition schedule, she has maintained a 3.2 grade-point average in her major of psychology. Her uniqueness becomes even more apparent when she identifies her career goals.
“I really want to be a professional dolphin trainer,” she says. “Animals are so important to me that I couldn’t imagine having a career that didn’t involve them. Besides, it’s the perfect excuse to move to Hawaii.”
Although she hopes to continue to ride with the MSU Rodeo team while she finishes her psychology degree, she expects that her rodeo career may wind down after graduation. Wright says that she just wants to enjoy each season for what it is, work hard and make memories with the team.
– Edited By Alyssa Burzynski