By Rick Mauch
For someone who once wanted to be a bull rider, Zaine Mikita turned out to be a great roper.
Growing up on his family's ranch in Byers, Colorado, Mikita began competing in rodeo around the age of five. His early dream was to ride bulls, but that changed after watching his dad rope in rodeo competition.
"I think every little kid's dream is to become a bull rider, and that was my dream until I turned five. I really started to watch my dad rope, going to ropings and rodeos with him really drew my interest into roping calves," Mikita said. "From then on, I started rodeoing in junior rodeos and goat tying and breakaway at the time were my favorite events. I think that's because they both relate to tie-down roping."
Now, the Weatherford College student-athlete is the top tie down roper in the Southwest Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
Mikita grew up on a ranch that ran an 800-head red Angus cow/calf operation. His dad runs cattle, and his uncle runs a feed lot.
"Growing up around horses and cattle is one of many reasons why I am involved in rodeoing. My dad circuit rodeoed, and I think that definitely helped my addiction to rodeoing," Mikita said.
In high school, Mikita advanced to the National High School Finals Rodeo for four years. He was a state champion in tie-down roping in 2018 and 2019, along with advancing to the finals in cutting all four years.
He found his way to Weatherford after several friends had come to join coach Johnny Emmons' program and raved about it, he said.
"They told me it was a great school and that Johnny was a great coach - and boy, were they right!" he exclaimed. "I went and met Johnny, and boom! I didn't look at another school. I knew it was the one."
Mikita said tie-down roping is by far his favorite event.
"I believe it's because it's a very complicated and athletic event," he said. "The thrill of trying to beat the clock is such an adrenaline rush because your mind is telling you to go so fast, but at the same time you're telling yourself no mistakes, just finish, and everything is happening in the blink of an eye.
"Heck, there are times where I put my hands up and get back on my horse, ride out of the arena and can't tell you what just happened because the adrenaline and muscle memory took place and just did its thing. Such a thrill that sometimes it turns into a blur."
He added there is more danger than most see in the tie-down roping.
"No one realizes how our bodies have to react so fast and that the wrong step can lead to a blown-out knee or rolled ankle," Mikita said. "Not to mention if the rope gets wrapped around an arm or finger.
"I have a few friends who have gotten injured. A broken leg stepping off, lost a finger due to a coil getting caught around their finger and can't get it out, as well as a torn bicep due to the rope getting wrapped around their bicep and coming tight so fast."
But when done right, well, Mikita is an example of the success that can be had.
Mikita has already had some success on the pro rodeo circuit and would like to continue competing professionally for years to come after school is done - though he also plans to compete another year at the college level. He's looking to earn his bachelor's degree in business.
"I would like to say that God has blessed me with some amazing horses, and I'd also like to say thank you to every person in my corner! It takes a strong team to accomplish any kind of goal, and I am very thankful for that," he said. "I have an amazing family and coach, along with friends and sponsors that help make it all so possible."