Raised to be a rider: Freshman phenom wins CSU rodeo

Some athletes don’t find their sports calling until later stages in their life and some are born for a sport. Rodeo athlete Caydee Johnson was riding horses at six months old — she was born to compete in the arena.

“I started riding at six months old with my mom in the saddle, and my first rodeo when I was probably two,” Johnson said. “I’ve been doing it forever.”

In that first rodeo, Johnson was led around in a barrel. Today she competes against the highest level of competition for Laramie County Community College’s rodeo team, where she helped the women’s team take first at the Colorado State Rodeo in April with her first-place finish in the women’s all-around.

Johnson finished the CSU rodeo with an all-around score of 165, placed second in goat tying with a time of 14 seconds and eighth in breakaway roping with a time of 6.7 seconds.

“I knew I had a good weekend and that’s all I wanted, just a good weekend and I didn’t care if I had won anything,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to beat my own goals and when I found out that I won I was like ‘ooh that is pretty cool.’ It was a pretty good feeling because I have worked really hard this spring and this fall and it paid off.”

A first-place finish for any rodeo athlete is an impressive feat and for Johnson it’s even bigger since she is competing against juniors and seniors as a freshman. Last year she was the veteran athlete competing at high school events in Montana. The step up is a big one for any athlete.

“It’s eye opening, that is for sure,” Johnson said. “My parents aren’t with me to help saddle horses or drive, so I had to grow up pretty fast I felt like.”

Even as a freshman around the upperclassmen, the transition for Johnson has been smooth due to her older teammates always making her feel at home and pushing her to do better.

“I look up to them tremendously, and they are great people and they work really hard,” Johnson said. “We are still competitive but they are at the point that they know I am a freshman and they are always open to talk and they make it feel way better. I’m not nervous in front of them or anything like that.”

The transition to college was made a little easier for Johnson by LCCC rodeo coach Beau Clark. Johnson and Clark are both from Manhattan, Montana, which led to Clark’s heavy recruitment of Johnson. Clark knew she was talented and has pushed Johnson to better herself everyday.

“He is all about school is first and he’s always understanding of letting us out of practice to go study,” Johnson said. “Mentally he’s not just about the physical part of rodeo. He’s helped me mentally because that’s a big part of rodeo, too.”

There is a lot of pressure on any student-athlete to perform at the highest level, and that is particularly true for a freshman like Johnson competing in an individual sport like rodeo. Johnson might be in that arena alone when it comes to competing, but she believes her success comes from her support group and herself.

“Honestly my teammates and the coaches have helped lead to my success, and I think I grew up as a person, too,” Johnson said. “I just kind of figured out that rodeo should be fun.”

Johnson said she is happy with her season so far and feels like she is gaining more confidence as the season moves on. Confidence will play a big part in the aspirations that she has for herself the rest of the season.

“I hope I make it to College National Finals Rodeo, that’s the plan,” Johnson said. “I’m in a good position now where I can just go at it and there’s no pressure or safetying up or anything.”

Johnson currently sits in sixth place overall in breakaway roping with a total score of 240 points and is 12th in goat tying with a total score of 145. The College National Finals are still in the cards for Johnson, and Clark said he believes in her and her future.

“Caydee Johnson could end her career at this school as a national champion breakaway roper and goat tier,” Clark said.


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