Cherryville’s Cheridan Gowan is a rodeo champion. Her abilities to rope animals and race around barrels have earned her a full-ride rodeo scholarship to Howard College in West Texas.
She has earned it. The 18-year-old wakes up at 5:15 every morning in pursuit of the rodeo dreams she has been pursuing since she was 6.
Like the 18 acres she lives on, Gowan herself is quiet by nature. She admits that she’d often rather be with horses than people. This love for her horses is part of the reason she decided to quit public schooling after eighth grade. She spends her days as a home-schooler and training her horses.
“You have more time to spend with your family, spend with your horse,” Gowan said.
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But she’s confident and says she is more excited for her Texas adventure than nervous about it. It’s her dad, Kevin Gowan, who is starting to tremble. For the last 14 years, he has raised her and her brother, Dalton, by himself.
“Me and her have always been a team,” Kevin said.
He is his daughter’s coach, but he said she is also his best friend. He said the two have never been apart more than eight days.
He knows he might struggle being away from her for months.
“I’ve tried to talk her out of it (going to Texas),” Kevin said. “It’ll be tougher on me than it will be on her.”
But Cheridan knows that if she doesn’t go to Texas, she’ll never get a chance to prove her barrel racing mettle.
“If you want to go to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and stuff, you got to go out there (to the West),” Cheridan said. “It’s not going to come to you. That’s barrel racing country. ... I know it’s not always going to be easy, but that’s what makes it fun.”
Cheridan’s future coach at Howard College, Percy Molesworth, is confident in Cheridan’s ability. When Cheridan and Kevin visited in March, Molesworth signed the scholarship paperwork on the spot. He wasn’t going to let his star recruit get away.
“She was exceptional for what comes from that part of the country usually,” Molesworth said. “She’s probably going to be our star freshman.”
Howard is a junior college in San Angelo, Texas. For competition purposes, the school covers travel expenses and competition fees for the team’s top four girls and top six guys each competition weekend. Only scores from those athletes’ events help the team win. Although the team includes about 25 members, Molesworth expects Cheridan to be able to make the competing team her freshman year.
On weekends the school doesn’t compete, Cheridan will have the option to take her horses Boogie and Bugatti across the state to take part in professional barrel races with prize purses worth thousands of dollars. Since Boogie and Bugatti are only worth about $50,000 and $20,000 respectively, Cheridan knows she’ll have to work hard to keep pace with many Texan horses. But she looks forward to the opportunity.
“(It is) all the girls you always saw on TV,” Cheridan said. “It’d be exciting to say you’d run against them or just seen them.”
Out there, she knows she won’t be the best right away. This will be a change, as she won top all-around honors in both the Tri-State Youth Rodeo Association and the Foothills Youth Rodeo Association in 2014.
But Cheridan said it’s not about winning for her; it’s about her love for horses – a love passionate enough to take her to Texas.
Steimer: 704-358-5085; @steimersays
About this series
The Observer asked readers and school leaders for suggestions of standout graduates. Today, we continue our series about students who illustrate a range of accomplishments, including some who overcame significant obstacles.