Cameron Hekkert, who served amid the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020-2021, has transferred the reins to Ashley Adams.
Texas Tech University today (April 23) named Ashley Adams of Lubbock as its 60th Masked Rider. Adams is a graduate student majoring in animal science in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. She will serve as the Masked Rider for the 2021-2022 academic school year.
Cameron Hekkert, a graduating senior majoring in sport management from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and who will enter Texas Tech's School of Law in the fall, has now passed the reins of iconic black steed Fearless Champion to Adams.
“I am looking forward to working with Ashley,” said Stephanie Rhode, director of the Spirit Program. “I've had a lot of fun getting to know her as a Masked Rider Assistant over the past two years, and I anticipate that we'll make a lot of great memories together as she serves as Texas Tech's 60th Masked Rider.”
As the 59th Masked Rider, Hekkert began her journey in August 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cameron served as the Masked Rider during an obviously difficult time, but she did so with great energy and positivity despite not being able to perform many traditional Masked Rider functions such as Carol of Lights®, Texas Tech Homecoming events and the iconic touchdown runs at Texas Tech football,” Rhode said. “I will always admire her for doing more than 160 appearances despite these limitations caused by the pandemic and for her dedication to Texas Tech University.”
Hekkert said she cherished her time as the Masked Rider in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was the best opportunity I've ever had in my life so far,” Hekkert said. “To know that there are only 59 people in the entire world who have been able to have this kind of experience just makes it that much more special, and it's also so humbling to know I'm one of the few people who's been able to do it. Obviously, this year has been so much different because of COVID-19, but I still wouldn't change it for the world. It's just been such a great opportunity for myself, to grow, and it's just been such an honor to be able to represent the university, because I love this university so much. So, it's just been great to be able to give back to it, in a sense.”
Hekkert also shared a few words of wisdom for Adams as she begins her time as the Masked Rider.
“My advice for Ashley would be not to take any moment for granted because, especially for my year during the pandemic, things can change in an instant,” Hekkert said. “You never know what's going to end up happening, so just every appearance you go to, really cherish that time and appreciate what you have. Once she starts her year, there will be only 59 others who have been able to do this and know what it's like. It's a really special group of people. Just be aware that you're not going to get to do this forever, so really make sure you're spending the time wisely.”
Hekkert will begin law school in the fall and wants to focus on athletics in some way.
“I really enjoy being around athletics,” Hekkert said. “That's what I did my previous years in my undergrad was doing internships with athletics, so I really think I'd like to somehow go back into football or maybe do athletic directing or something like that.”
Hekkert said she couldn't hand over the reins without recognizing the hard work of those in the Spirit Program.
“I want to say thank you to Stephanie Rhode,” Hekkert said. “She, along with Fearless Champion, was one of the constants throughout my year. When things were changing or I was down in the dumps, she would tell me to look at the bright side and kept me going. She was always a support system for me, and I couldn't be more appreciative of our relationship.
“And to the rest of the Masked Rider committee, this year was so difficult. I know everyone really pushed for us to be able to do the things we were able to do this year, like running at football games. I'm so grateful everyone rallied around the program and pushed for us to continue the traditions of the past, even during the pandemic.”