Kaylee Cormier is a third-generation member of McNeese State University’s women’s rodeo team–both her mother and grandmother were on the McNeese rodeo team. Kaylee’s grandmother, Charlene Carson, is a 1968 McNeese nursing graduate, and her mother, Kasey Cormier, graduated in 1996 with a degree in business administration.
Kaylee attended the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) this summer and placed third in goat tying. Charlene qualified for the national finals, but did not go because of school commitments, and Kasey also qualified and competed.
“My family wanted me to go to LSU, but I found out McNeese had a rodeo team and it was close to home because I grew up in Sulphur,” Carson said. “It was called McNeese State College then. And I loved it here!”
A graduate student in chemical and environmental studies, Kaylee is in her sixth year of rodeo. Team members from 2020 got an additional year of eligibility because of the canceled season due to the COVID pandemic.
“Having a sixth year has worked out great for me because I could take my time earning my master’s degree and the scholarships helped,” Cormier said.
Studying microbiology is not an easy thing when you spend 60% of your time taking care of rodeo business.
“I was in the honors college as an undergraduate and spent a good amount of time studying because I knew I wanted to get a doctorate degree to go into research,” Kaylee explained. “As rodeo athletes we are expected to workout, eat right, practice and take care of our animals, all while taking care of our academic responsibilities.”
Kaylee will graduate in the spring with a master’s degree in microbiology with a thesis. “I really want to go into environmental research. My thesis is about how pollution affects bacteria in our water and I want to continue to explore that research and see if I can’t help our environment.”
Her mom, Kasey, is proud of Kaylee’s drive and how she has always stayed on top of her responsibilities and is willing to help anyone with anything.
“We are proud of her and her accomplishments in rodeo and school, but we are also proud of her as a person. She helps a lot of younger girls in rodeo,” Charlene chuckled. “The rodeo coach’s wife says Kaylee is like a grandma to the young girls on the team.”
Kaylee explained that as a rodeo team member you must bring your own horse or horses and then make sure they are taken care of properly. Sometimes the extra hours meant she had to give up other things. She explained that their horses are not their tools but are their teammates.
“I had to figure out that sometimes I’m going to be tired and cranky at practice because I had to stay up late studying, or I’ll be tired for school because I took extra time with my horse,” Kaylee said. “I know I have to sacrifice certain experiences if I want to be in the best shape possible for my sport. It’s the biggest thing, but I’ve never minded because I want to be successful in every area. I’m super competitive!”
While Kaylee was competing at the CNFR, she received a social media message with questions about her horse, Big John. When Kaylee bought Big John, he was a steer wrestling horse and she was nervous he wouldn’t be ready for the type of arena they would be competing in at nationals. The social media messages were from a woman who competed with Big John in goat tying at the CNFR 19 years ago.
“Big John is the fastest and strongest horse I’ve ever worked with. He’s built like a tank,” Kaylee said. “I thought I was training him for goat tying and he was doing so great but all along he knew what he was doing!”
The McNeese rodeo team will compete in the season opener Sept. 22-23 at the Panola College Rodeo in Carthage, Texas. The team has been working out and getting stronger and practicing every opportunity in various locations while McNeese’s practice facility is being refurbished.
“Shout out to coaches Justine Browning and Mersadie Martin who work so many hours in being our coaches, physical therapists, coordinators, therapists and advocates on campus,” she said. “I’m thankful to be able to rodeo for such a great team for the last six years, and I can’t wait to see what this season holds!”
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