story by Lindsay Humphrey “Not a lot of people know that I have a step-dad,” said 17-year-old Savannah Wilson from Midland, Texas. “He came into […]
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Meet the Member Cullen Eppright
story by Lily Weinacht
Cullen Eppright scarcely steps out the door without his planner in hand, an indispensable tool for the AJRA competitor who also serves as either president or vice president in three different organizations. Since serving as the state and national junior high rodeo president several years ago, the 16 year old from Gonzales, Texas, learned the value of time management. “A week ahead of time, I prioritize what I need to, and if I have a big test or project, I study for it during my down time at home so I can focus on FFA and other projects during the week,” he explains.
Rodeo holds a chief position in his prioritizing, and Cullen is roping the dummy every night and roping calves several times a week off his horses, JZ and Coach. When the roping calves are too big, they become his feeder cattle for his FFA project. “I’ve grown up around agriculture all my life, so rodeo was a natural fit,” says the tie-down and ribbon roper. “My mom, Tonya, junior rodeoed and she was Miss Rodeo Texas in 1992. My dad, David, started team roping in college, and I started roping when I was eight.” That same year, Cullen joined the AJRA and competed for a season before taking several years to rodeo closer to home. He joined again in 2014, winning the World Champion Tie-Down Roper title in the 13-15 age division, and receiving the Roy Cooper award the same year. He recently travelled 700 miles round trip to compete in the AJRA rodeo in Sweetwater, Texas, but has the benefit of stopping midway at his grandparents’ home in Oplin, Texas. “I never played other sports as a kid – I always roped calves, and it’s a very addicting sport! I love the competition and the fellowship.”
Cullen draws inspiration from a variety of rodeo athletes, explaining, “I look at everybody in the rodeo industry and take what I think makes a good rodeo contestant and put it together. I look at how to lose gracefully and win gracefully, and be a good example, especially to the little kids coming up in the association.” The values carry into serving as the FFA Lone Star District President, Chapter Vice President, and THSRA Student President. His passion for competing is equaled by his desire of further enriching the rodeo and agricultural industries, and Cullen’s next step is running for 2016-2017 NHSRA Student President. During the NHSFR, he’ll give an introduction speech on Sunday, then campaign throughout the week from the rodeo office before giving his main speech on Friday, followed by voting.
A junior this fall at Gonzales High School, Cullen is a member of FFA, Math Honor Society, Future Scientists, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, with chemistry and algebra his favorite classes. “I was homeschooled from fifth grade until I was a freshman doing the Texas Tech program, so I was well prepared when I came back to public school. I enjoy the academic programs, in addition to the countless clubs and activities my school offers!” Rodeo is Cullen’s main sport, and he’s also an avid crossfitter. He further enjoys fishing and alligator hunting, which he does on his friends’ ranch near Matagorda Bay. “I had a wallet made from the hide of an alligator we caught, but we’re not just trophy hunting – the main reason is to protect the livestock,” he says.
Cullen’s goal for the summer is qualifying for the AJRA finals and NHSFR. “Coming out of Texas, with 103 contestants in the tie-down roping, and only four spots on the National team, it is quite a feat. My long term goal is attending Texas A&M University and joining their Corps Cadets. I’m a diehard Aggie fan – I bleed maroon! My dad and most of his family went there, and my mom got her masters at A&M,” he adds. “I’d like to thank my mom and dad, and everybody who’s helped me along the way. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”