On a crisp Sunday athletes competed in timed events at the Stephanie Williams Memorial Rodeo in Wall, South Dakota raising scholarships for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Rodeo Bible camps.
The scripture Romans 8:31 was visible on the back of jackets, tooled onto leather crosses for event prizes and printed on t-shirts being sold at the rodeo office for $15.
Rodeo organizer Heather Gabriel said, “Romans 8:31 was one of Steph’s favorite verses! During her final days she held onto her faith and had such a strength about her. She never felt sorry for herself, instead always giving God control. She wrote verses on paper and placed them in her shoes so she was directly walking with God. She still inspires me to give God control and have faith, deeper than words.”
The second annual event on September 14, 2014 drew contestants from across South Dakota and neighboring Wyoming and North Dakota. “Steph touched so many lives with her walk on earth and it is evident by how many people came from all over to help and compete in her honor,” continued Gabriel.
The silent auction alone raised $1500 in the memory of the 37 year-old mother and loving wife to Marty Williams for scholarships. Steph’s parents Greg and Vicki Andersen along with numerous friends and extended family gathered for a morning church service lead by Harold Delbridge followed by a potlock lunch before saddling horses to compete. Delbridge also served as the rodeo announcer and Greg as one of the flagging judges along with Jeff Gabriel.
South Dakota wind can smear massacre. A heartfelt tribute is another reason and when her children mounted on their own horses lead their mother’s saddled horse Derby in the arena tears trickled down several faces. The song “Look at you Girl” by Chris LeDoux played over the loud speaker followed by moment of silence.
Stephanie was the 1997 Champion Breakaway Roper for the Great Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Her daughter, Jaicee, along with other cowgirls competed in four age divisions of breakaway roping, goat tying, barrel racing and pole bending. Youth cowboys, including her son Stran, competed in the flag race, goat tying and breakaway roping. The Over 30 (years old division) pulled out a few surprises with a paint pony being a favorite in both goat tying and barrel racing.
The Over 30 Division for Breakaway Roping was won by Rhonda Matt from Rapid City with a 2.9 second run followed by Kristie Thorstenson with 3.6 and Bobbi Jo Williams at 3.7. Matt repeated winning her event for a second year in a row.
Cowboy Lifestyle Network caught up with her about her run and competing in the Stephanie Williams Memorial Rodeo. “It really means a lot to me knowing that the kids had lost their mother. I lost mine several years ago, it’s a tough deal no matter how old you are and a long road ahead. They (Williams) are a great family,” Matt expressed.
Bobbi Jo Williams won the All Around Cowgirl title by finishing first in goat tying, second in poles and third in breakaway roping. “This rodeo is very special. Steph was near and dear to our hearts, she was my sister-in-law, aunt and God parent to our child,” Bobbi Jo explained.
Steph’s husband Marty reiterated the purpose was to raise scholarships for FCA and Rodeo Bible camps because of his wife’s faith. “She was really involved with FCA, helped coach (Wall High School) and had her own (FCA) huddle.” He continued with words of gratitude for the extended family and volunteers pitching in to make the event happen. Plus acknowledged the contestants willing to drive 300 miles from eastern South Dakota to participate on a Sunday and how much it meant to him.
The sky filled with a beautiful sunset in colors of pinks and oranges as the youth cowboys and cowgirls gathered in the arena to play on the barrels and wait for the awards. Both Steph and Marty’s children competed in multiple events following in their parents rodeo footsteps. “Jaicee ran Derby in the barrel race today, they are really clicking. Steph started her but wasn’t able to finish her, it’s good to follow through with something her mom started,” explained Marty.
For all the rodeo results and how to contribute to the SMW scholarship visit www.smwmemorial.com
Official 2014 Stephanie Williams Memorial Rodeo Slideshow
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