The Masked Rider is a well-known symbol for Texas Tech and has an important role this year as she creates excitement for fans during COVID-19.
Cameron Hekkert, a senior sports management major from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, said she wanted to be the Masked Rider because of the opportunities Tech has given her.
“The Masked Rider would just be the perfect way to be able to give back to the school,” Hekkert said. “Also, to represent them and show other people how many great opportunities you can have when you come to Tech.”
One important responsibility is taking care of Fearless Champion, Hekkert said. She is in charge of Fearless Champion’s daily feeding and care.
“Every morning and every night, I go to campus and feed him and make sure he has water and make sure he’s feeling good,” Hekkert said.
Hekkert also ensures Fearless Champion gets enough exercise to stay in shape, especially during football season, she said. She rides Fearless Champion three to four times a week, but on a game day week, she rides him every day.
The most well-known role of the Masked Rider is her presence at football games.
Hekkert’s gameday routine starts by getting Fearless Champion eight hours before kickoff in order to ride him for one to two hours, so he has less energy during the game, she said.
“Then, I’ll bring him back to campus, and that’s when my assistants show up and we’ll wash the truck and the trailer, and we’ll wash Fearless,” Hekkert said.
Once Fearless Champion has been taken care of, Hekkert said she begins to get ready for the game by curling her hair and putting on makeup.
Hekkert’s favorite part about being the Masked Rider is interacting with former Red Raiders, hearing their stories and being able to bring back memories for people she said.
“Everyone knows who you are, and they know that rush of adrenaline when you’re running on the field,” Hekkert said. “That all kind of comes back when they see you.”
Jennifer Covell, a senior animal sciences major from Edgewood, New Mexico, said Hekkert is a good Masked Rider because she is great at interacting with the public.
“She’s great at relating to people and emulating what Texas Tech strives to be,” Covell said.
Like most programs, the Masked Rider had to make changes due to COVID-19.
Tech Spirit Program Director Stephanie Rhode said the biggest change is the number of appearances the Masked Rider makes.
“On a normal year, we do about 300 appearances,” Rhode said. “This year, obviously that’s going to be a little bit shorter.”
In previous years, the Masked Rider would have made about 160 appearances by now, Rhode said. So far, Hekkert only has been able to make about 50 appearances at events.
Although it is disappointing not being able to do as many appearances, the smaller number of appearances has made being the Masked Rider even more special, Hekkert said.
“Everyone has that extra level of excitement when they see us because everything has been shut down for so long,” Hekkert said. “I think people get really excited because things are going back to normal.”
Despite these changes, Hekkert said she is trying to make the most out of the time she has as the Masked Rider by focusing on the positives to not making as many appearances at events this semester.
The job of the Masked Rider is exciting, which can make time go by quickly, Hekkert said. The smaller number of appearances allows her to slow down and enjoy her time because she does not have to feel rushed about making appearances at Tech and local events.
“I only have so much time to do this,” Hekkert said. “It has really helped me to appreciate how much time I do have and make the most of it.”