JARED FIELDS • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — For more than two weeks, Terry White had to keep a pretty big secret to himself.
A proud father, White couldn’t brag about his daughter.
“A lot of people knew she had gone through the tryout process,” said White, about his daughter, Mackenzie. “They’d ask if I had heard anything, and I’d say, ‘Nahhhh.’ It was hard.”
But, on April 18, the secret came out. Mackenzie was named as the Masked Rider, the 53rd Texas Tech University student to don the costume.
Mackenzie, an agricultural and applied economics major minoring in Arabic and Spanish, will make about 200 appearances and travel about 20,000 miles with her black, 9-year-old quarter horse gelding, Fearless Champion.
“It’s hard to choose just one thing,” Mackenzie said about the honor. “Being able to interact with the little kids who are fans, their faces light up so much when they get their picture made. That part is most special to me.”
Mackenzie is the first Masked Rider from Marble Falls, or even Burnet County. And although the Masked Rider always dresses in black, with a red cape and a mask, Mackenzie still wants to leave her own mark.
“Each rider has their own goal,” Mackenzie said. “My legacy I want to leave is to be very gracious and kind. To be available to every fan. I want to be encouraging to every fan.”
Mackenzie replaces Cory Waggoner, who set a record number of appearances at 255 in his year behind the mask.
For Mackenzie, being the face of the university, while hiding her face, means being an ambassador for Texas Tech. She volunteered on the safety team two years ago and was an assistant to the Masked Rider this past year.
Most Masked Riders would go on and on about riding into Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock in front of 60,000 fans before a football game. Mackenzie is looking forward to that. But she speaks just as much, or more, about appearances for local charities and fundraisers.
What is she looking forward to? Visiting the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas with Fearless Champion.
“Those kids don’t get to see much neat stuff in their lifetime. They were thrilled to see Fearless Champion,” Mackenzie said. “I’m looking forward to going back this summer.”
Mackenzie and Fearless Champion will spend plenty of time this summer at events across the state. Maybe even back home in Marble Falls.
“I’m hoping to get to come down there for the Marble Falls Rodeo. I’ve been in contact with the rodeo committee already,” she said. “Last year, we got to go down there, when I was an assistant, to the Christmas Light-up Parade.”
Terry and wife, Susan, might not make all 200-something appearances. But Terry said they’ll burn up the highways as much as possible. The Whites have season tickets to Texas Tech football games. Already, Terry said he has enjoyed seeing Mackenzie in her new role.
“There will be some times that she’s going to be limited on how much we get to actually do,” Terry said. “The other day, we went to some of her appearances and hung out. I like to watch her interact with the kids and everything.”
Mackenzie’s two younger brothers — Connor, 17, and Layton, 14 — have become Red Raiders in a land that’s usually more burnt orange or maroon.
“They were definitely interested in it before all this. Just seeing her on the field as an assistant, they thought was pretty neat,” Terry said. “With the Masked Rider (announcement) and everything, they’re both hooked for sure.”
Mackenzie said Connor already asked if he can come live with her.
“Layton calls me John Wayne,” she said.
Like her brothers, Mackenzie fell in love with Texas Tech because of the Masked Rider. She has ridden horses most of her life and was actively involved in 4-H and FFA in high school. Mackenzie said she was visiting schools while in high school when she took a trip to Lubbock.
As she was speaking with the head of the equine department at Texas Tech about the horse judging program, Mackenzie was invited on the field for a home football game.
“That really hooked me,” she said. “I couldn’t let go of that dream of becoming the Masked Rider.”
Now that she’s behind the mask, the prestige that comes with it will only help her after her year with Fearless Champion is finished.
Mackenzie plans to go to law school at Texas Tech and then practice agriculture law.
“I can’t help but think that just the Masked Rider position itself, the experience she’ll gain, the contacts she’s going to make really will jumpstart whatever she decides to do,” Terry said.
For now, Mackenzie just wants to focus on being a full-time student and representative for her university.
“The biggest thing was that I wanted the position because of my love for Texas Tech, and I would serve the university well if I was selected.”