EE major ropes in royal title

April 25, 2011

Wearing a red leather, glitter-studded dress, Hollie Kucera stepped forward to receive her crown. After a long day of competitive events, Kucera smiled proudly as the “Miss Cal Poly Rodeo” crown was placed on her cowboy hat.

On Thursday, April 14, electrical engineering junior Kucera was crowned queen for the Cal Poly Rodeo celebration. Being one of four competitors and the only non-Agriculture major of the bunch, Kucera figured her unique position as a woman studying engineering would pay off with a win or cast her as an outsider. Luckily, Kucera was favored, not only for her brains in the classroom but also for her extensive knowledge about rodeo history, rules and horsemanship.

“The part that worried me was that I wasn’t in the College of Agriculture. I felt totally outside of this,” Kucera said. “But I felt like I could perform better than these girls.”

Beginning the competition at 8 a.m., Kucera started the day off on her horse. The first of four events involved the women to completing a horsemanship pattern. One of Kucera’s electrical engineering professors, Professor David Braun, came to support her at the horse riding event. After Kucera’s pattern was scored, she traded horses with another contestant and completed the same pattern on a new horse.

Following the horsemanship event, Kucera took a written test. This assessed her knowledge of rodeo rules, Cal Poly rodeo history, the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association and the history of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

The next events were included in the pageant portion of the competition. Kucera took part in a modeling event, gave a speech and participated in an impromptu question-answer session. Another one of Kucera’s electrical engineering professors, Dale Dolan, showed her support during the pageant.

Having held two previous rodeo queen titles, Kucera knew that winning the Cal Poly crown would be challenging, but possible. In high school, she won the 2007-2008 Miss California High School Rodeo Association District Two Queen title. Two years later, she took the 2010 Miss Grand National title in San Francisco.

Being a rodeo queen isn’t just glitter and crowns. In addition to looking like royalty, Kucera serves as a spokesperson, rodeo expert and community outreach member at the events she attends as queen. If an attendee approaches Kucera with a question about the rules of the rodeo, it is her responsibility to know the answer.

 Balancing her electrical engineering school work load with rodeos has been challenging this year for Kucera. At one point when she was competing for the Grand National title, Kucera and her mother were driving back and forth from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco nearly daily to make sure Kucera did not miss any midterms or labs.

 “A lot of people think I’m crazy for doing so much, but our bodies can handle so much,” Kucera said. “If you want to do something, just do it.”