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Scholarships Spur College Plans for Rodeo Queen, State Champ
Scholarships Spur College Plans for Rodeo Queen, State Champ
Posted on 05/25/2021
Horses aren’t usually on the college packing list, but two North Buncombe grads plan to bring theirs.Featured Photos: 1. (Above, Left) Cole Gillespie rides during a competition. Photo: Amy Cosey. 2. (Above, Right) Clara Hale poses with her horse and Rodeo Queen sash. Photo: Auburn Bailey. 3. (Below, Left) Cole Gillespie stands on his farm. Photo: Kassidy Shelton, Lightning Captures Photography. 4. (Below, Right) Clara Hale ropes a calf during a rodeo competition. Photo: FotoRodeo. All photos provided courtesy of the Hale and Gillespie families.

By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications Dept.

Horses aren’t usually high on the college packing list, but two North Buncombe High graduates plan to bring theirs.

Cole GillespieWeaverville seniors Cole Gillespie and Clara Hale will represent the Blackhawks this fall as they accept generous rodeo scholarships to Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, respectively. Gillespie’s team will care for up to four of his horses, and Hale plans to bring one special horse with her — a Quarter Horse Gelding named Cody. The experienced animals will share in their success as the student-athletes join rodeo teams at the collegiate level. Gillespie plans to study agricultural science and Hale will study business administration.

“I just really enjoy the sport of rodeo and the challenges it brings,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie showed animals as a child through 4H and Future Farmers of America. He began roping dummies in fifth grade and has been a member of the state and national High School Rodeo Associations since seventh grade. Through the state association, Gillespie received the Best Boot Award his freshman year. He was later named the 2019-2020 state Saddle Bronc Champ, a title resulting from exceptional performance in multiple state rodeo competitions. Gillespie’s rodeo events include bulldogging (also known as steer wrestling), calf roping, and team roping.

Hale’s lifelong love of horses has been an important part of her desire to compete. At home, she has cared for a number of horses and even trained a wild mustang to compete with her. Hale began English riding at age seven.

Clara Hale competes in a rodeo.“Horses are so unique. They all have different personalities,” said Hale. “It’s a lot of fun to see how different they are and how they interact.”

Last May, Hale was named the 2020 Miss North Carolina High School Rodeo Queen, which — amazingly — was her first ever rodeo-themed competition. But her previous equestrian experience made rodeo a natural fit. Since she was crowned, Hale has competed aggressively each month in her two choice rodeo events: goat tying and breakaway roping.

Hale credits Mr. Justin Gillespie, Cole’s father and a teacher of agricultural science at North Buncombe High, for encouraging her to get started in the rodeo ring.

“There are a lot of community members in the North Buncombe and rodeo communities that are willing to take the time to show you the ropes," she said, "and get you to where you are wanting to go.”

“We do have one of the stronger Ag communities in the county,” Gillespie added. “They’ve been very supportive and everyone finds passion in it.”

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Related Story: Growing Leaders: FFA Students Shine at State Competition

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