It wasn’t long ago — a month, actually — that Kansas State alum Kyle Eike was having to balance college, competing with the Wildcats rodeo team at the National College Finals in Casper, Wyo., and being a professional steer wrestler.

Eike didn’t have luck on his side at the finals, but got to open the first day and first event at the Kaw Valley Rodeo Thursday night in steer wrestling. Eike was one of five competitors to receive a score, finishing the run in 15 seconds.

“It’s a great rodeo,” Eike said, “and being a K-State alumni now, it’s an awesome deal to come back here and do a rodeo in Manhattan.”

His running partner in the event is a Manhattan native, too: Chancey Larson. Larson scored the second-best time in the event at 5.4 seconds, just six-tenths of a second shy of Jeff Miller’s 4.8.

For a while, Eike was at an age when he doubled as both a professional and college rodeo competitor. Since rodeo isn’t an official NCAA event, college kids can get their pro permits at 18 years old, which is what Eike did while competing at Kansas State for rodeo coach Casy Winn.

“Kyle just graduated from K-State, so he is out there hitting rodeos hard, plus working and going back to the family farm at some point,” Winn said. “Rodeo wise, he made the circuit finals last year and is on track to make it again this year, so he’s doing really well. He had a little bit of tough luck at the college finals, but he’s back winning now at pro rodeos.”

There’s hardly any downtime for Eike. He was at another rodeo Wednesday night before competing in Manhattan on Thursday. While Eike staying in solid physical shape is important, Winn said, it’s also crucial for him to maintain the mental state of himself and his horse, especially in front of a familiar crowd.

“Whenever you get a hometown crowd. it’s always fun,” Winn said. “When the announcers mention K-State. that always gets the crowd going and gets your heart pumping.”

The chain of rodeos isn’t slowing down for Eike. But moving around and traveling always has been one of his favorite parts of the entire experience.

“There’s never a dull day,” Eike said. “The people you meet and the connections you make are hard to compare to anything you see. All these places and all these people make it the chance of a lifetime.”

The Kaw Valley Rodeo continues Friday and Saturday with the same events in bareback, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

Additionally, there will be a bullfight after the conclusion of the rodeo on Friday and Saturday.

Kaw Valley Rodeo

Thursday results

Bareback riding: No competition held; not enough entrants registered.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Jeff Miller, 4.8 seconds; 2. Chancey Larson, 5.4; 3. Hunter Crawford, 6.1; 4. Tyler Harris, 7.0; 5. Kyle Eike, 15.0; no other qualified runs.

Team roping leaders: 1. Cale Markham/Brye Crites, 6.1 seconds; 2. Nick Becker/Dawson McMaster, 6.7; no other qualified runs.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Preston Kafka, 74.5 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Medicine Show; 2. Brady Burton, 73; 3. Mason Laviolette, 61; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Jeff Miller, 9.7 seconds; 2. Lucas Potter, 10.5; 3. Logan Wiseman, 11.5; no other qualified runs.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Leslie Smalygo, 17.69 seconds; 2. Alexis Baratka, 17.72; 3. Jamie Chaffin, 17.77; 4. Shelby Janssen, 17.79; 5. Sandi Brandli, 17.84; 6. Jordan Miller, 17.86.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cole Fischer, 76 points; no other qualified rides.