Paraclete senior Nadalee Vasquez has played three different sports for the Spirits, including four years (if play is allowed this year) of softball.
But that’s not the sport that earned Vasquez an athletic scholarship at Baylor University.
Instead, Vasquez will be competing in horsemanship for the Bears. She earned both athletic and academic scholarships and signed her National Letter of Intent at Paraclete High on Nov. 10.
“I pretty much just have to pay for my housing and food,” said Vasquez, who has maintained a 4.2 grade-point average throughout all four years at Paraclete. “I’m super excited for my parents. Hard work paid off.”
Vasquez committed to Baylor in November 2019, taking tremendous pressure off of her this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I know all of the seniors this year are stressing picking colleges and applications and I’m like, I just had to do one and then I was done.”
Vasquez and her horse, Brady, competed in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association (AQHYA) World Show in August 2019, which is where Baylor noticed her.
“A lot of the coaches from the equestrian teams will actually go to the World Show and that’s their scouting opportunity,” Vasquez said. “So that’s where the Baylor coach actually reached out to me from. She saw me compete there.
“A couple of other coaches reached out to me, but I really liked Baylor the best and they offered me an official visit, so they paid for me to go out there and everything. That was pretty much the school that offered me the most and it was the best fit for me there.”
Vasquez said she was also considering Auburn and Georgia. But the smaller feel of Baylor in Waco, Texas, won the Acton native over.
“I visited Auburn and Georgia and their schools are literally ginormous. You have to take buses to get to your classes. It was really wild,” Vasquez said. “I’m from Acton, so it’s a smaller town, and Waco is kind of the same. It’s a college town, but it’s not giant. The school is all on one street. All the way at the end is where the equestrian facility is, but everything else runs parallel on a street.
“I thought that was super cool, like you couldn’t really get lost. Obviously if you go into the school more, it’s a bigger school, but it’s not like ginormous, so I really liked that. It was all really organized well.”
She plans on studying nursing or sports medicine at Baylor.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always said I wanted to be a baby doctor, so I kind of want to go into the labor and delivery field,” Vasquez said. “Nothing else really interests me. I like helping people and I’m not afraid of wounds and stuff. … My brother’s really into motocross and so he crashes a lot, obviously. I really enjoy helping him dress his wounds and all that stuff. I feel like it kind of fits.”
Her brother Brandon was also at her signing ceremony.
Vasquez also liked the coaches at Baylor, which helped make her decision a bit easier.
“The coaches are actually super cool,” Vasquez said. “I had the opportunity to go out to dinner and stuff with them and they showed me around the school. So I kind of got a feel of how they work and I got to see a practice while I was there also. So I kind of got to see how the whole thing runs and everything. So that was really good.”
The college competition is intriguing as the competitors compete one-on-one against each other on the same horse, riding the same pattern. The horses are provided by the host school and are randomly chosen for each competitive pair.
To prepare for the competitions, each rider on the team is assigned a new horse to compete on every day during practice. It really gives a home-arena advantage to the host schools.
“That’s pretty much the challenge of the whole thing — it’s an unknown horse that you’re riding,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez has been riding horses since she was 7 after being introduced to the sport by her mother’s best friend, whom she refers to as her aunt, who lives down the street. Her mom and aunt grew up together and also rode horses.
“My aunt introduced me to her horses at her house and she had an arena and stuff,” Vasquez said. “So she pretty much introduced the whole idea to me and I started riding at her house.”
Vasquez then started competing in horsemanship when she was around the age of 13. Since that time she has been with her trainer, Carolyn Rice, whose daughter is a Baylor alum.
Vasquez wanted to thank several people, including her parents Lisa and George Vasquez, for helping her in the sport and with her grades to get her scholarships.
“Definitely my parents and my trainer,” Vasquez said. “And then all my teachers and everyone that’s just been there and supported me and my family.”
Vasquez is hoping to play softball one last time at Paraclete before her senior year is over, if the pandemic quiets down to allow it.
But she’s also looking forward to getting started at Baylor.
“I’m definitely excited just to get out of California,” she said. “I just want to adventure somewhere else. I can always come back, but I just think it will be fun to live somewhere else for a little bit.”