April 3, 2000
PULLMAN, Wash.-- It has often been said you can take the cowboy out of the country, but you can' t take the country out of the cowboy. That's exactly the case when it comes to WSU pole vaulter Lex Katich.
Katich, a senior from Keller, Wash., grew up on his family's 4000-acre cattle ranch on the Colville Indian Reservation. While most people might not have been able to find anything productive to do out in the desert-like country, Katich spent his time competing as a bull rider.
"I grew up rodeoing, and I've rodeoed since I've been able to walk," Katich said. "I've had a lot of success in rodeo."
It's not wise to jump on a bull with no riding experience, so he started riding sheep. From there he worked his way to calves, then eventually progressed to bull riding. Katich won four first place saddles while competing in rodeos in Eastern Washington. He won the all-around award at the 1992 Eastern Washington Junior Rodeo Association Finals
"That was a really big deal," Katich said. "That's basically what you shoot for the whole year."
When Katich wasn't riding bulls, he was most likely working on his ranch or playing sports. He, along with his younger brother Sorrell, had to help his father complete the tasks that come with the territory of owning a ranch.
"We bucked bales of hay, fed the cows, fixed fences, drove tractors and cut hay," Katich recalled. "We pretty much did everything."
Katich and his father, Steve, raised about 150 bucking bulls on their ranch. Katich said his bulls are known all over the western part of the country. In fact, one of their bulls won the honor of Pro Rodeo Association Bull of the Year in 1997, the highest award a bull can win.
While growing up as a "white kid on the Reservation," Katich had to deal with the fact he was in the minority. He got into a few fights when he was younger but nothing serious.
"I was a short-tempered little kid," Katich admitted. "I used to fight at the drop of a hat."
With all of the fights, ranch work and working with angry bulls, it's no surprise Katich has had his fair share of injuries. He got tossed off a bull when he was 13 and landed awkwardly on his back. The result was a cracked vertebrae. He also broke his thumb on several different occasions riding bareback, one time spinning it around a few times and breaking it in several spots..
"I broke my thumb for the third time while playing quarterback, and I played the game of my life," Katich recalled.
Despite the injuries and the time commitment his ranch duties demanded Katich always found time for athletics.
"I've played a lot of sports since I was little, with basketball being my favorite," Katich said. "Over the summers I would go to basketball and track camps."
Katich's basketball skills were well known around the Northwest. He went to several invitational basketball camps, including Missoula, Mont., and Aspen, Colo. The Aspen camp was a recruiting camp for college basketball coaches. It's no surprise Katich was considered a "spark" by his high school coach at Wilbur High. His hard work and hustle on the ranch mirrored the way he played basketball.
"I loved to run and gun and shoot the three pointers," Katich said with a big smile on his face. "I was always on the floor and always hustling."
When it came down to a decision about which college to attend, Katich had a difficult decision to make. He said several small Division I colleges on the East Coast wanted him to play basketball, but he wasn't interested in moving across the country. He decided to go to Highline Community College to compete in basketball and track, but he quickly transferred to WSU when Highline's track coach retired.
"I'm glad I decided to come to WSU," Katich said. "It's been a great four years. The team is great and it's been a great experience for me."
Katich has done well as a pole vaulter for WSU, winning pole vault events at the Big Foot Open and the Washington dual. His personal-best is 16-10 3/4 inches, but he's not satisfied yet.
"I've had some good attempts at 17-5, but my goal is to clear 17-0 before I leave," Katich said.
When he's not busy working on the ranch or practicing with the WSU track team, Katich helps coach basketball and track. He coached at the Northwest Basketball Camps and with the Pullman Comets track team. He also helped Tim Coles with the Garfield-Palouse boys' basketball team, the 1999-2000 State B Champs.
"I love coaching, and I would like to get into it down the road," Katich said.
His immediate future includes graduating from WSU this year with a degree in Sports Management. Then Katich would like to get back into bull riding or calf roping. Not only is there a lot of money in rodeo, but Katich says the people are down to earth.
"Bull riding is really taking off," Katich said. "I want to work in sports, or rodeo, because the people aren't snobs. They are down-to-earth, normal people who know how to have a good time."
Katich is a tough, hardworking guy who loves competition. He is also a down to earth guy who knows how to have a good time. It's almost time for this cowboy to ride home.
Copy By Mike Kreiger
WSU Sports Information