Olathe native Will Lowe has about 20 minutes to unwrap his elbow, treat his own half inch gash on his pointer finger and get on the road to Omaha for his second rodeo of the day.
It may sound exhausting to those not in the business, but to him, “It’s just part of it.”
“It’s the last weekend to get any points so I’m hitting the last few,” Lowe said. “I think I have the finals made, so I have a little less pressure on me, but I still try to win my share.”
Lowe’s fifth-place finish in the bareback riding portion of the 66th annual American Royal Pro Rodeo matinee Saturday at Hale Arena helped secure a spot in his 14th consecutive Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
At just 32 years old, the former rookie of the year has spent nearly half of his life as a major contender, winning world titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He went nine years without finishing lower than third in the world after graduating from Spring Hill High School.
A top-15 finish in any of the eight disciplines earns entry into the NFR, which begins Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been very blessed,” Lowe said. “The Lord has kept me safe, and I haven’t had many bad injuries. I’ve been hurt a few times, but nothing major. I’m just going to try to keep it going.”
Kyle Brennecke and Devan Reilly shared the victory in a tight competition in bareback riding with 81 points. Lowe and Ethan Assman tied for fifth with 78 points.
Among the other winners in the matinee session: Clayton Hass won steer wrestling with a time of 3.2 seconds; Riley and Brady Minor won team roping at 3.6 seconds; Chad Ferley won saddle bronc with 85 points; Timber Moore won tie-down in 7.9 seconds; Kimmie Wall won barrel racing with a time of 14.30 seconds; and Corey Atwell won bull riding with 88 points.
Even though scheduling has not always allowed for a return trip to the metro, the American Royal has always held a special place in Lowe’s heart. He now lives in Texas with his wife, Tiffani, and two children, Garrett William and Levi, but was able to attend two of the 20 events held on the final weekend.
“It’s a lot of fun coming back up to see the family,” Lowe said. “Most years I’m in Omaha and it makes it tough to come back here to Kansas City, but this year it made it easier to work Kansas City and work both in the same day. I’m happy for the season to be over.”
Lowe estimates he rode in more than 80 rodeos so far this season. He spent almost all of August away from his family and the start of September in bunches of up to eight days at a time. Occasionally, they can travel, but his oldest child just started kindergarten.
He has seen the rewards, though, as he has won seven rodeos and been named co-champion at four more.
“I’m just happy to get another NFR,” Lowe said. “You try your hardest every time you nod your head and there are a lot of things out of your control.”