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Cattle Q&A with Lance Pekus

Progressive Cattleman Editor Carrie Veselka Published on 21 December 2018
lance Pekus

Lance Pekus is a rancher from Salmon, Idaho. He works on a 300-pair cow-calf operation with his father-in-law and, with the support of his wife and two children, competes yearly on the TV game show American Ninja Warrior, where he has become known as the “Cowboy Ninja.”

Pekus spoke with Progressive Cattleman Editor Carrie Veselka about his experiences from a seven-season run of competing on the show. Pekus will be joining Terry Bradshaw at the opening session of the NCBA National Convention Opening Session in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Jan. 30. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How did you get into ranching? Was that something you always wanted to do?

I’ve always grown up in small towns and had a lot of friends whose families were ranchers and farmers, and I had summer jobs of bucking bales and changing irrigation, but I didn’t really get involved with ranching itself, especially on a year-round basis, until I started working with my father-in-law. I started working full-time summer jobs at the age of 18 and fell in love with ranching and working with the animals – and then, of course, I fell in love with a rancher’s daughter.

How did you come across American Ninja Warrior?

I really just ran across it on TV. Back then, it was just a cable network show, and it caught my eye and seemed really interesting and something I felt like I could be good at. I got really into pushing myself and trying to achieve obstacles a lot of people look at as impossible, so it really was rewarding being able to train on obstacles and see progress – obstacles I couldn’t do before that I was able to do better and better.

Why have you returned to compete every year?

It’s one of those things where I saw progress. I came in kind of green. I’d never had any sort of obstacle course racing background, and I came in and was competing against Olympic athletes, professional rock climbers and stuntmen, and I was doing a lot better than some of those guys. It really encouraged me to keep training and see how well I can do.

It’s also this cool atmosphere that, even though I’ve tried seven times and I’ve failed; I keep falling into the water; it’s this life lesson of “Don’t look at it as a failure; look at it as more of a learning experience and learn while you fail and come back stronger the next year.” I’m trying to take that into all aspects of my life and not be afraid of failure and use those all as learning experiences to grow as a person.

How has your family reacted to you competing? Has that changed since your first time on the show?

They were definitely shocked the first time I told them I wanted to go try this thing. Back then, nobody knew what American Ninja Warrior was. My brothers-in-law ribbed me for a little bit and made fun of me, but ultimately I had amazing support from my family, and they supported me and came and watched me. The support has grown throughout the years too; they’ve always tried to make it out and see what I can do.

How do you keep the balance between working on the ranch, training and preparing for the competition and spending time with your family?

I definitely have to stay active year-round, but there is a period after finals are over I try to relax and be more with my family and get stuff done I have been putting off. I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle trying to balance everything; I think there’s a strength in the balance. I’m getting pulled in a lot of different directions, but I feel like it helps me balance and not get consumed by one thing or another.

Working on the ranch helps me with my physical and mental strength, especially at difficult times on the course where you have to push through, and training for American Ninja Warrior helps me stay active and agile in many different ways that keep me from getting injured on the ranch. My kids and wife keep me grounded. Whether I fail or have a bad day, they’re always there to encourage me and keep me going.

What do you do to train on the ranch?

Lance Pekus on American Ninja Warrior

It’s really impromptu stuff most of the time. I use what’s around the ranch, and there’s a lot of ranch equipment, so it’s very easy to use your imagination and make up some obstacle on those, and I’ve built a few things on the ranch, mostly in the barns, that help me work on specific techniques.

What do you hope your children learn from your example and experiences?

I hope they can learn to pursue the dreams they want to do without worrying about what other people might think of it, or what other people might worry about, and to not worry about failure or failing. You chase whatever it is in life you want to do, whatever that path may be. Hopefully, they can use that as a good example when they get older.

What is it like being a representative of the cattle industry in an environment where you are a minority?

I’m definitely in the minority in the sense that many of the people I compete with are from urban backgrounds and don’t have any background in agriculture. I think of this as a challenge, and it excites me to help educate and promote not just the beef industry but agriculture itself and relate all the things we do and the hard work we put into raising animals and keeping them healthy.

Once people start asking questions, and you can really inform them on what is going on, you’d be surprised at the misconceptions out there and the amount of falsehoods people believe in and how little they know about how food actually gets to their plate. It’s been an honor to represent “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” – it’s a brand I grew up with, and it always puts a smile on people’s face when I mention it at events.

What are the biggest things you have learned from doing this?

The biggest thing is to keep trying, and hopefully you can achieve the thing you’re planning on doing. I look at every year I fall in the water as a fail but, from a different perspective, other people don’t see me that way. They see me and the progress I’ve made and what I’ve been able to achieve, so even though you may think you’re not doing so well, other people can look up to you, so it’s a matter of perspective on how you’re doing in life. end mark

PHOTO 1: Lance Pekus. Photo courtesy of NCBA.

PHOTO 2: Pekus recently finished his seventh season on American Ninja Warrior. Photo courtesy of Eddy Chen/USA Network.

Carrie Veselka
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