(VIDEO) Graduate student Laurie Tolboom made her final appearance as Masked Rider at the ceremony before passing the reins to senior Lyndi Starr.
Texas Tech University on Friday (April 20) named Lyndi Starr, a senior agricultural communications major from Mount Vernon, as its 57th Masked Rider. Starr will serve in the position for the 2018-19 academic year.
The 56th Masked Rider, Laurie Tolboom, wore the mask and cape one last time before passing the reins of horse Fearless Champion to Starr during the annual Transfer of Reins ceremony at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
“I look forward to representing Texas Tech, meeting new people and creating connections for the university and myself,” Starr said. “I'm excited about bonding with Fearless Champion and being part of such an important university tradition.”
Though she didn't begin serious training as a rider until age 14, Starr quickly became an award-winning horsewoman. In her first show in 2011, she and her 2-year-old stock horse, Blue, placed third among 20 competitors. In her very next show, the Texas 4-H State Horse Show, they took home five ribbons.
Starr continued riding throughout high school, earning multiple awards in Texas and Oklahoma. She was recruited to North Central Texas College where she completed an associate degree in applied equine science and competed as part of the stock horse team and the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Western Horsemanship team. In 2015, she was named the IHSA Western Regional Reserve Champion.
Since transferring to Texas Tech in 2016, Starr has been a member of the Ranch Horse Team, the Equestrian Team and the Horse Judging Team and has served as the on-site resident for the Texas Tech Equestrian Center. In 2017, she was named the Stock Horse of Texas Limited Non-Pro World Champion and Collegiate Limited Non-Pro Year-End Reserve Champion.
Starr coaches an FFA and 4-H horse judging team and is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, the National Cutting Horse Association, the National Reining Horse Association and the American Paint Horse Association.
As the 57th Masked Rider, Starr said she will use her skills as an agricultural communications major to continue cultivating a relationship with the public in person and online via social media. She also hopes to be a positive role model and leader to those who aspire to one day wear the mask and cape.
“I believe being the Masked Rider is about far more than attending football games,” Starr said. “I want to spread the school spirit that brings West Texans together as a family, and I want to inspire others to attend college, set goals and go after them.”
Tolboom completed 300 Masked Rider appearances, including three in Germany, and drove more than 23,000 miles. One of her first appearances also was one of her favorite.
“It was in Lamesa at a fundraising walk,” Tolboom said. “It was a smaller appearance, so people could keep coming up, but lots of times that doesn't happen. You get one shot to come up, take a picture and pet Fearless Champion. At this appearance, you could kind of keep rotating in and out. One little girl would just keep coming up to him and petting his shoulder. Then she turned to her mom and said, ‘You know mom, I like horse mascots better than cow mascots, so I'm going to go to Texas Tech now.' Hearing her say that, and hearing the impact that he can have on people, made that my favorite appearance.”
Tolboom said she's thankful for the experience of being the Masked Rider.
“It is indescribable,” she said. “I got to experience a whole lot, from rodeos to any sporting event to individual appearances where I got to meet a lot of people who love Texas Tech. It was an experience of finding a new family, a second family, because Texas Tech and all the people in it are all so united in their love for Texas Tech. The Masked Rider Program is a symbol of that unity. That was really cool for me to experience.”
Tolboom, a graduate student from Dublin, Texas, completed her bachelor's degree in agricultural communications in December 2016 and is now pursuing her master's degree in mass communications. After graduation, she plans to work in marketing and communications, using her skills in photography, videography and creative writing to increase the outreach of a company or organization.
“Laurie did an outstanding job as the 2017-18 Masked Rider,” said Spirit Program director Stephanie Rhode. “We are so proud of the work she did to increase engagement, both online and in person, and look forward to how Lyndi will continue those efforts.”