At just 16, Kevin Wallace is already a star attraction at his hometown Lillooet Lake Rodeo.
In addition to his performance at the Mount Currie event, where he took a third in junior steer riding, Wallace put up a pair of second-place showings in Penticton in May, and also took the runner-up spot in Bella Coola earlier this month.
Wallace credited his daily training regimen, which includes morning workouts, jogging, and afternoon sessions on the barrel, for his success so far this season.
Wallace hopes to soon crack the Professional Bull Riders lineup, but is too young to qualify for the tour. For now, he'll continue to ply his trade with the BC Rodeo Association—where he's finished as the season leader the past two seasons, Bull Riders Canada and Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR) circuits.
"I'm a couple steps lower than the professionals right now," he said. "I would be starting (there) right now, but I have to be 18 to get my pro card."
When he turns pro, Wallace plans to remain right where he is in Mount Currie.
"It's where I want to be," he said.
For this season, Wallace's schedule is starting to pick up, as he has rodeos planned for every weekend this summer, having recently competed at the Canoe Mountain Rodeo in Valemount earlier this month, where he had a rare struggle.
"I didn't do as well as I wanted to do there, but that's all part of it," Wallace said.
Wallace's introduction to the sport came naturally enough because of its ingrained stature in the community. Wallace was with a friend who was practicing, and was asked if he wanted to give it a try.
"We went to ask my parents and my parents said 'Yeah,' so I went on later that day," he said. "I couldn't stop."
He added: "It's that adrenaline rush and being able to go on an 1,800-pound (816-kilogram) bull that controls your own life ... My dad always says 'If it was easy, everyone would do it.'"
That first ride was six years ago, and Wallace hasn't stopped since, developing an immediate passion. It's gone hand-in-hand with recent boosts to rodeo sports in Mount Currie, namely a renovation to the local arena that he said has benefitted both athletes and spectators.
"It's a big transition from wood to metal. It's so much easier working with metal instead of wood chutes and everything else," he said. "It's also safer for everybody."
The past two years, Wallace has qualified for the INFR Finals in Las Vegas, competing in the junior bull-riding event. He took a high of 11th last year, and the competition provides a learning experience and building blocks for his career.
"It was a lot of pressure, but you've got to deal with that in this sport," he said. "It's a lot of pressure, but you have to stay calm and do what you do."