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SEMO barrel racers gallop into first National Intercollegiate Rodeo competition
Barrel racing has come to SEMO in the form of plant and soil sciences junior Bailey Below and ag business sophomore Addie Nichols.
Below started her barrel racing journey when she was young. Around the time she was in kindergarten, her mother gifted her with a small pony.
“I started out riding around seven years old and have been doing barrel races pretty much from the very beginning,” Below said.
Below and her sister began riding at small exhibitions before moving into larger rodeos for more experienced riders.
When Below began as a student at John A. Logan Community College, she first played volleyball, setting her love of barrel racing aside due to not being able to compete in any leagues.
After transferring to SEMO, Below noticed the college didn’t have a team, either, so she decided with the help of Nichols to start a team.
“I came to SEMO to be closer to home and thought this would be really cool to get started,” Below said. “SEMO hasn’t had any students compete in any college rodeos, so we will be the first.”
While Bailey warmed up her horse by running through some exercises, her mother Jenny Thomas watched from the sidelines.
“This is something she has dreamed about since she was young,” Thomas said. “She put her whole heart into this competition and has really worked hard at it.”
Below with her mare Dot and Nichols with her horse, Rocky plan to race in their first rodeo representing SEMO Nov. 4 through 6 at Southern Arkansas University.
“It’s a tough competition, but we will make it,” Below said. “I know a few girls from around that area, and they are all so good.”
Nichols credits her dad for her love of horses and getting her started with barrel racing.
“When my parents got married, they bought a few horses, and my mom’s best friend actually taught me how to barrel race,” Nichols said. “I rode my first horse at two years old and my first barrel race at five years old.”
This isn’t Nichols’ first collegiate rodeo, but it will be her first ride representing SEMO.
“I previously rode for Central Methodist College before transferring to SEMO,” Nichols said. “They had a smaller campus in Poplar Bluff, which is where we competed in the collegiate rodeos.”
To follow Below and Nichols as they represent SEMO, visit the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association website.