CARSTAIRS — A tie-down roper with local roots recently took the top title in his event at a rodeo in Denver, Col.
Kyle Lucas clocked an impressive 7.5-second run in the championship round at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, which wrapped up on Sunday, Jan. 23.
The achievement was made all the sweeter as his biggest regular season win of his career to date with earnings of $6,402, which was capped off by an interview with his sister Katy Lucas, a former Miss Rodeo Canada queen and current Cowboy Channel broadcaster, states a portion of a press release issued by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.
“It felt really good, because I never really did have that great of a run prior to then,” Lucas told The Albertan during a phone interview while driving handsfree on his way to Fort Worth, Tx. for the next rodeo.
Growing a reputation as a contender and accustomed to performing well enough, Lucas said he usually makes a decent run but tends to fall shy of scoring the big cheques.
A good time in tie-down roping, he explained, depends largely on certain conditions such as the setup and especially the livestock. In some rodeos, 10 seconds will be the time to beat, whereas in other events, his 7.5 seconds wouldn’t even qualify a competitor for finals.
In his first three rounds leading to the finals, Lucas said he clocked 9.3, 8.5 and then 9.1 seconds, with an average run-time of 8.6 on four head.
“I kind of just snuck my way into each round into the semifinals and then barely snuck into the finals, and then it finally come together,” he said.
Despite slower times in his first rounds, Lucas stayed focused on the moment and persevered without dwelling on what had already happened.
“Staying positive — that’s a huge part of it as well. Instead of beating myself up for all the bad runs and then trying too hard to make it come together,” he said.
When dealing with two large farm animals amounting to some 1,600-plus pounds of livestock in motion, one must essentially go with the flow and capitalize when a chance presents itself, he said.
“You almost have to wait and just kind of take advantage of the opportunities,” he said, adding sometimes, one also simply needs to have faith.
Describing the competition as the “best of the best,” Lucas said there was a mix of younger, up-and-coming talent giving the older, more experienced veterans a run for their money.
“It was hard to beat," he said.
But the effort, it seems, paid off in spades.
“It was pretty awesome, you know,” he said when asked how walking away with the top title in his event felt. “I had a lot of fun up there and I got to hang out and meet a lot of nice people.”
A several-day break between the first rounds and the finals offered a welcome moment of reprieve that enabled him to make new connections.
“At the end of the day too, it’s more so about the relationships. The rodeo world is such a tight knit group, it’s like nothing else,” he said. “People often talk about having a rodeo family, and that’s exactly what it is.”
“That’s kind of a benefit of these winter rodeos — you’re not competing and then running off to next one the second you get done,” he said.
Even so, he plans to make it out to as many rodeos as possible this season.
“We’ve got about 40 or 50 rodeos on the schedule in Canada this year,” he said.
Needless to say, that doesn’t leave much time for training.
“It’s not like any other sport — we really don’t have any off-season,” he said, adding the outgoing season winds up in September with the next kicking off right away in October.
“You can pretty near go to a rodeo every weekend if you want,” he said. “That being said, the downtime is minimal. You have to learn to almost practise at the rodeo in competition in order to get better and better.”
Lamenting having been unable to compete in this past summer’s Sundre Pro Rodeo — his grandparents’ hometown rodeo which he called one of his favourite events that he’s previously competed in about eight times — Lucas said working around the travel restrictions was too cumbersome.
“I really wish I could have been there to support that one,” he said. “But hopefully this year, we can get back there.”
He’s also no stranger to going head-to-head against the world’s best at the Calgary Stampede.
“It’s always been really good to me,” he said, adding that although he’s yet to win any events there, he nevertheless has won some prize money every time.
Leaving a legacy
While he ultimately aspires to claim a championship buckle as do most cowboys, his love of family is the primary motive that inspires him to keep pushing himself.
“That’s our end prize, is the gold buckle, you know — the world champion. That’s definitely on the radar,” he said. “(But) I want to do it more so for my family and my future family, and have something that they can build off of as well.”
Although he now hangs his hat in Oklahoma where he lives with his other half, Lucas was born in Calgary and raised largely in the Carstairs area, where his parents own a ranch.
The 27-year-old attributes his successful career in large part to the support of his parents and called his father Joe Lucas “a great influence.” Joe, who also established quite a reputation in the rodeo world and has since retired from running roping schools, introduced Kyle to the sport at a young age.
“He got me going,” said Lucas. “He’d get all kinds of kids over from all throughout Canada, I’m sure he had some from the States as well.
“It kind of set me up for competition at an earlier stage in my life to where I could compete with other kids and build and get motivation off that to do better and better.”
Joe also helped Kyle get his first pro rodeo calibre horse, which took the burgeoning rodeo talent to his first Canadian Finals Rodeo event.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that without him,” he said about his dad, adding the support was multifaceted from mental, physical to financial.
“It’s hard rodeoing. You got to learn how to manage money. We’re not like any other sport where they’ve got a salary and everything paid for no expenses,” he said.
“Financially, he’s helped me out as well, too. So, I don’t know if I could have done it without my mom and my dad helping me in so many ways.”
Although the tie-down roper has occasionally snuck in some team roping events here and there — having back during his days in junior and high school rodeo done “quite a bit” of it — Lucas eventually reached a level where he had to pick one or the other.
“I kind of got my heart in calf roping a little bit more,” he said.
Never one to stay stuck in the past, Lucas strives to remain focused on the future.
“I think if you don’t have something you’re looking forward to and something that keeps driving you, you’re going to just stay in one place. So, I’m always looking for the next win," he said.