New faces will don Texas Tech’s famous mascots uniforms for the 2023-24 season.
It happens every spring at Texas Tech University for the Spirit Program. The end to one run for the Masked Rider and Raider Red and the start of a new one.
Today (April 21), current Masked Rider Caroline Hobbs will transfer the reins of Centennial Champion to Lauren Bloss for the 2023-24 season.
In the same manner, seniors Nathan Dudley and Sydney Aalbers will pass Raider Red's guns to a new group of mascots.
It is a day filled with mixed emotions and excitement.
“I'm so grateful and proud of Caroline Hobbs as she served Texas Tech this past year as our 61st Masked Rider,” said Stephanie Rhode, director of the Spirit Program. “She showed extraordinary strength in her dedication to this program. Her 303 appearances showed her commitment to this job, and I will miss her greatly.”
Hobbs took over the Masked Rider position for the 2022-23 season and made the transition from a retiring Fearless Champion to Centennial Champion. It has been a unique experience for the Dallas native who will graduate in December with a degree in animal science from the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
“Altogether it's been the best year of my life,” Hobbs said. “It is bittersweet that it's coming to an end, but I'm ready for it to bless another person's life and I'll miss Centennial Champion and miss all the experiences.”
Bloss is a senior animal science major with a concentration in equine production and a minor in psychology. She first saw the Masked Rider run in person when she and her parents made the trip from El Paso to watch her older brother Justin play tennis for Texas Tech.
“It still doesn't feel real yet,” Bloss said. “It's something I've worked toward for a long time. I've grown up around horses, and I never thought I'd get to ride one at Jones Stadium one day. I can't even think of words to describe it.”
Bloss worked as an assistant for outgoing Masked Rider Hobbs as well as helped with field safety under former Masked Rider Ashley Adams. She has experience in English and Western riding and has been part of the Texas Tech Equestrian Team. Bloss knows she will be hitting the ground running sooner, rather than later.
“I already have a good list of appearances just for the end of the year which is exciting,” Bloss said.
As for the two outgoing Raider Reds, they describe their experience as a dream come true. “Growing up in a Texas Tech family, I knew I wanted to become Raider Red when I was 10 years old,” said Aalbers. “It has been so special to see how much the community loves Raider Red and to be able to bring joy and happiness to so many people is by far the best part of the job.”
It's this sense of community and service both Aalbers and Dudley share which has brought them the most joy during their stint as Raider Red.
“Being from Lubbock, this town and university have made me into who I am today,” said Dudley. “Getting to give back to the community over the past two years as Raider Red has been humbling and an honor.”
A normal year for Raider Red is a tremendous amount of work, and the Centennial Celebration put a good deal of extra work on Aalbers and Dudley's schedules.
“I appreciate all the hard work and dedication that Sydney and Nathan put into the Raider Red program,” said Bruce Bills, head cheer and mascot coach for Texas Tech. “I'm proud of their work in costume and how well they represented Texas Tech.”