Phillipsburg rodeo grants college scholarships to Ft. Hays students

Published 04/10/2024

Rylan Hays team ropes at a college rodeo. The Phillipsburg man, a student at Ft. Hays State Univ., is the recipient of a scholarship from the Phillipsburg Rodeo Association. Photo courtesy Kenny Hernandez.

Kansas Biggest Rodeo in Phillipsburg has granted scholarships to two Fort Hays (Kan.) State University (FHSU) rodeo atheltes.

Rylan Hays, Phillipsburg, and Ashton Ottley, of Hays, are the recipients.

Hays, who is 21 years old, is a junior at FHSU, majoring in mass communications and public relations and advertising.

A 2021 graduate of Phillipsburg High School, he competes collegiately in the steer wrestling and the team roping, but a shoulder surgery in March will keep him out of competition for the next three to five months.

Hays has ties to the Phillipsburg Rodeo. The son of LeRoy and Deb Hays, his dad has been a board member for many years, and both parents have volunteered at the rodeo in different capacities.

As a kid, Hays tagged along with his dad to the rodeo grounds, and by the age of twelve, was helping out himself. He’s helped at the timed event end of the arena, has helped untie calves, and sat at the main entrance, watching the gate so the bucking horses wouldn’t get out. He’s helped with the concessions stand and picked up trash as well. ‘I help wherever they want me to go,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help. I like it.”

He works as a certified nursing assistant and a certified medical assistant at a nursing home in Hays. He also has a radio show on the FHSU radio station, the Tiger Network, and does a podcast.

He is grateful for the scholarship money from the rodeo association. “It helps me focus more on schoolwork,” he said. “I can spend more time on classwork instead of worrying about picking up more shifts to help pay for schooling.”

After college, he would like to be a rodeo announcer or work in sports broadcasting.

Ashton Ottley, a junior at FHSU, is a barrel racer and will graduate in May of 2025 with a bachelors of nursing degree.

As a high school student, Ottley visited the Phillipsburg rodeo as a fan and has competed in the arena at the barrel racing jackpots that were hosted there.

She appreciates Kansas Biggest Rodeo for the talent that comes to compete. “It’s one of the best rodeos in Kansas,” she said. “It brings in some of the best, so it’s fun to watch and see the cowboys and cowgirls we look up to.”

After college, she would like to be a registered nurse in an emergency room. “I love the adrenaline,” she said. “I work very well under pressure. I love the fast pace.”

Like Hays, she works part time to help pay bills, and the scholarship will help.

“I’m working as much as I can, but it’s slim with rodeo and nursing school, so the scholarship helps me be more financially set up.”

She is the daughter of Mark Ottley and Barbara-Jean Ottley.

The 95th annual Kansas Biggest Rodeo will take place August 1-3 in the rodeo arena north of Phillipsburg.

Tickets go on sale June 1. The show starts at 8 pm each night.

For more information, visit the website at