Two years ago, Neepawa native Justin Miller decided to become a professional steer wrestler on the rodeo scene, and he made an immediate impact on the scene.
The 25-year-old became the Canadian rookie of the year in his first season, and this year he added to his young, successful career at the Calgary Stampede.
Miller, who now lives in Mossleigh, Alta., a town just outside of Okotoks, won the go-round on the third day of the Stampede with a time of 4.1 seconds. His aggregate winnings of $7,000 put him in sixth place and got him to the final weekend, but he was unable to record a time on his attempt.
Miller had dreamed of competing in the Calgary Stampede since he was a kid, and he relished the moment of posting the best time on the third day.
"To get there and win a little bit was awesome," he said. "I had a good steer and I knew who he was and had a real good horse and everything worked out. It was quite good. I was happy."
Rodeo has been a part of Miller’s life for quite some time. He grew up watching his dad compete in rodeos and starting roping when he was 10 years old.
After high school, Miller attended Dickinson State University in North Dakota, and competed in rodeo there, winning a pair of conference titles along the way. He returned home and competed on the amateur circuit for two years before moving on the professional ranks.
It was a bit of an adjustment to move to the professional ranks, but it’s one Miller is enjoying.
"It’s a big jump, he said. "There’s a lot of guys. In amateur rodeo, you compete against 25 guys and you come to the pro rodeos and the majority have between 60 and 80 guys competing at it. The sheer numbers of guys is quite a bit more.
"The best guys in Canada go to pro rodeos and they get a lot of guys from the U.S., too."
Miller is having a successful season so far. As of July 17, he sat third on the Alberta Circuit standings and 10th on the Twisted Tea Series leaderboard. He’s also ranked 48th in the world.
Miller believes he has secured his spot into the Canadian championship event, but one of his goals for the season doesn’t necessarily lie in Canada. While he would love to win the Canadian Finals Rodeo, Miller also hopes to become the rookie of the year in the United States. He’s hoping if he can continue to do well in the States, then he’ll be invited to some of the bigger events down there this winter.
"I’m going to try to win rookie of the year in the States right now," he said. "I think I’m winning it right now in steer wrestling. The goal is try to stay in the top 30 and win rookie of the year."
Miller will have lots of chances to improve his standings as well with 18 other events coming up before the season slows down in September.