Saddles and spurs shine in South Summit | ParkRecord.com

Saddles and spurs shine in South Summit

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

Some might call her a "Jill" of all trades, but for Nichole Lucas, it’s just a means to the end.

South Summit’s sophomore saddle sensation Nichole Lucas has been rodeoing since before she could spell ‘horse’ and has honed her skills in every rodeo discipline open to her.

It’s a handful to balance school, practice and competition with that many skills, but the Marion native earned her ticket to the Utah State High School Rodeo Finals so long ago that she can’t even remembered when it happened. The way she sees it, being good at so much is a sure way to make an appearance at the state championships every year and, more importantly, to rodeo in college and eventually become a professional competitor.

Right now she’s shining in breakaway, pole bending and barrels and hopes to place in the top three at the state championships, which will earn her a trip to the National High School Rodeo in Springfield. Ill.

Her schedule for the next two weeks before the Utah State High School Rodeo, which will be held in Heber, June 5-9, will be packed with practice, but Lucas has already figured out a plan.

"I pick different days for each event," said a non-plussed Lucas.

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Unlike many high school sports, here’s no coach setting drills or running practice. Christy Atkinson acts as the club director, which includes event and team management, but members must practice with their own horses on their own time.

For most of the team that is not much of a problem. In Oakley, kids are brought up around horses and rodeo competitions and if the desire is there, kids learn what to do from an early age. Lucas learned as young girl and is a horse person in all aspects. She also shows horses in English style.

"I learned most of the stuff from my parents," said Whitney Leavitt, another South Summit sophomore. "And the rest from Nichole."

Rodeo kids don’t have to be lifetime rodeo lovers, but Lucas says that love and understanding of horses has to be there or there is no motivation to get better and practice regularly.

"If I don’t ride every day, I don’t rodeo," Lucas said.

Practice and self-determination aren’t the only demands of high school rodeo.

Over the weekend, the South Summit Rodeo Club hosted the last regular season rodeo at the Oakley Event Center, and when they say "host," they mean, "host." Also unlike many high school sports, there is no special crew to prepare and clean up afterwards. That’s left up to the high schoolers themselves and volunteers. According to Leavitt, tasks include signage, moving equipment, preparing the food and raking the event areas. Everyone is expected to work at least one event in order for the rodeo to run smoothly, so the person who opened the concessions booth may be the same person walking away with the rodeo queen crown.

The kids say they receive plenty of support for their efforts, though.

"We’re a small town and we have lots of opportunities," Lucas said. "Our community is really helpful."

Other top South Summit rodeo athletes including Harley Atkinson and Cody Wall are also headed to Heber in June. Wall, a top football player and wrestler just started in rodeo last year, but his athleticism has already allowed him to move quickly up the ranks.

"It’s being a good athlete and knowing what to do," Leavitt said.

Leavitt just received a new quarterhorse, Bella, and hopes to eventually get comfortable enough on her so that she also can make an appearance at the state finals.

Lucas says that the horse is as important as the rider in rodeo. If both are ready then it can be a long road to qualifying for bigger competitions.

"Since you spend every day with them, they are like a partner in this. Every horse is different and you have to learn how to ride them," Lucas said. "It takes two to be good."

The Utah State High School Rodeo Finals will be held in Heber June 5-9 at the fair grounds. For more information, visit http://www.uhsra.com.