Miller brings a hockey attitude to rodeo arenaCowboys and hockey players aren’t usually synonymous. Nevertheless, Justin Miller believes quite a bit of what he does in rodeo arenas is, in one way or another, linked to his experience in hockey rinks.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Cowboys and hockey players aren’t usually synonymous.
Nevertheless, Justin Miller believes quite a bit of what he does in rodeo arenas is, in one way or another, linked to his experience in hockey rinks.
The Dickinson State junior, who leads the Great Plains Region in both the all-around and steer wrestling point standings, was once a standout hockey player for his hometown Neepawa (Manitoba) Natives Junior-A hockey team.
As odd as it may seem, Miller believes the time he spent on the ice with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League team has helped him become a better cowboy.
“It (hockey) taught you a lot about dedication,” Miller said.
Miller hopes the time and effort he has poured into rodeo pays off this weekend as he tries to lock up a pair of region titles at the Blue Hawk Stampede.
DSU coach Scott Kleeman said he sees a hockey attitude and toughness shine through Miller when he gets on a horse.
“He knows what it is to win and he knows it takes to win,” Kleeman said. “That plays a big part in it.”
Miller’s winning ways started at last summer’s College National Finals Rodeo. Although he didn’t automatically qualify for the finals, Kleeman included Miller on DSU’s six-member men’s team.
Miller stepped up on the biggest stage of his career and won the CNFR steer wrestling short round, setting a Casper (Wyo.) Events Center record with a time of 3.4 seconds and finishing sixth in the average.
“It kind of opened up my eyes that I might be pretty good at this if I wanted to do it,” Miller said with a smile.
Miller has had much smile about with as much as he’s won this season. DSU has been to eight rodeos this season. Miller has four steer wrestling wins and two wins in the all-around, the tie-down roping and as a team roping heeler.
Coming into this weekend, Miller has a slight lead in the men’s all-around point standings. With 1,415 points, he leads Black Hills State’s Paul Painter by just 23.5 points. However, with a maximum of 320 points up for grabs in each event this weekend, that lead is far from safe.
In the steer wrestling, he has 675 points and leads teammate and housemate Jade Harper by 138 points.
He also has an outside shot of winning or finishing in the top three in the tie-down roping. Isaiah Pemberton, another one of Miller’s housemates and his team roping partner, leads the event with 485 points. While Miller is in sixth with 355 points, the vast amount of points available makes it anyone’s game.
Miller said competing against his teammates, some of whom he lives with, gives the individual sport more of a team aspect — just like hockey.
“We’ve all got the same mindset. We’re here to win,” Miller said. “We all know what we’ve got to do to win. You kind of surround yourself with people like that.”