AHC Rodeo vests.jpg

Hancock College rodeo athletes Xochitl Guzman, left, and Kathleen Merrill show off their new Hancock College Rodeo Team vests during a recent practice. To help raise fund for the fledgling program, Hancock Boosters is hosting the first Hancock Rodeo Dinner & Auction on Aug. 24 at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge.

Hancock College’s fledgling rodeo program is growing.

And to help give the team a shot in the arm, Hancock College Boosters is hosting the first Rodeo Team Dinner and Auction on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge.

“Our rodeo team is off the ground and rolling,” said Erin Krier, the head of Hancock’s Agriculture Department who is directing the college’s rodeo program. “We started this year with three student-athletes — Jimmy Gardner, Kathleen Merrill and Xochitl Guzman — and now we’re up to seven.”

Brianna Thompson, Allison Wahlig, Carlos Guzman and Austin Colunga will be joining the original trio in the fall.

“And we’ve got at least two more tentative commitments,” said Krier. “We started small but the three were all competitive and there’s a lot of enthusiasm as we go forward.”

Hancock Rodeo is an independent campus club program which means it is operated separately from the Athletic Department and doesn’t receive any financial support from the college.

The team has been accepted to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), of which both Cuesta College and Cal Poly are members and that will allow Hancock’s team to formally compete in college rodeos as a member of the NIRA’s West Coach Region along with Poly, Cuesta, Fresno State, Lassen College, Feather River College, West Hills College and the University of Nevada’s Las Vegas and Reno campuses.

But it will take money to help the team grow and that’s where Hancock Boosters comes in.

“We’d like to raise enough money to hire a full-time rodeo coach,” said Krier. “And we need funds to pay entry fees and for items like team vests, practice costs, transportation and lodging.”

“As we’ve gone through the community, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” said Jim Glines, the Chairman of the Board of the Community Bank of Santa Maria and the fundraising committee chairman for Hancock Boosters. “The biggest question we’ve been asked is ‘what took you so long?’”

Helping Krier in the program’s infancy is Los Alamos rancher Tony Branquinho, a former college rodeo Coach of the Year while at Cal Poly and former Fresno State rodeo head coach who has been working as an advisor to the athletes.

“We’d like to be one of the feeder schools where local student-athletes can get started on their college careers and continue to compete in rodeo while staying close to home,” said Krier. “There is a lot of local talent around here and until now they’ve had to go to places like Cuesta or West Hills (in Coalinga) to get started at the community college level before transferring over to Cal Poly or Fresno State.”

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“We’d like to get the team to a position where it could hire a full-time coach and to be able to help out with team expenses,” said Glines. “We’d like to help provide a local venue and, one day, host our own rodeo. We’d love for Hancock Rodeo to host a rodeo within three years. That would really put local intercollegiate rodeo on the map.”

The next step is the Rodeo Team Dinner and Auction.

The event replaces the Boosters’ annual Joe White Memorial Dinner and Auction which, over 17 years, raised $850,000 that was turned over to Hancock for athletic facility capital improvements.

“Hancock Boosters Inc. is the umbrella organization with Keith Pierce as the president,” said Glines. “Then we have fundraising committees like the Joe White and now the college rodeo. We’re looking for people who would like to be charter members of our rodeo support team. For $1,000 they’ll get a five-year membership and an embroidered jacket. Spouse jackets will also be available for an additional $100. We’re only offering charter memberships for a limited time but there is still time to get one.”

The doors will open on Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. with dinner tickets being sold for $60.

Blue table sponsorships are available for $500 and come with 10 tickets.

Gold table sponsorships are available for $1,000 and include dinner for 10 with complimentary wine and other perks.

“The mission has changed but the tradition will stay the same,” said Glines. “The dinner and auction is still going on, it is just re-purposed. It will still be in August with the same 7:07 p.m. start time for dinner, the same cooking crew — Billy Ruiz’s Cowboy Flavor — cooking up a New York Strip steak dinner on portable Santa Maria-style barbecues, with a silent auction going on all night and a live auction after dinner.”

Tickets are now on sale and auction items are being collected.

Tickets can be purchased online at hancockcollege.edu.

Tickets can also be purchased or auction items donated by calling Jada Clark at (805) 720-7493.

For more information about Hancock Rodeo and/or charter memberships, call Krier at (805) 720-4928.

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Senior Sports Reporter

Elliott Stern has worked at Lee Central Coast Newspapers for the last 18 years after more than 30 years working in television and radio news and sports.