Madison “Madi” Outhier has been competing in rodeo since she was one. “I started in the lead line,” said the 16-year-old sophomore who made history […]
On The Trail with Alex Phelps
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
[ Life is short, be happy and be a blessing to those who surround you. ]
Alex Phelps has been on a mission to have a positive mindset through his experiences and lessons in rodeo. His attitude was evident to others around him when he won the Ramsey Award as a high school senior in Ulysses, Kansas, which celebrated rodeo athletes who had a bright attitude. His mindset poured into his time at Southwestern Oklahoma State University when he received the Walt Garrison Scholarship Award as a college rodeo athlete in 2016. The scholarship celebrates one recipient from each of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s (NIRA) region who demonstrates determination, loyalty, leadership and integrity. 14 years later, Alex relfects on the meaning of the award. “I’m competitive, so I was involved in a softball tournament the next day, and it didn’t really sink in. That award had meaning and I have always tried to represent the values inside and outside the arena, my values have not changed.”
Alex was raised by his grandparents, Donnie and Peggy Phelps, in Ulysses, Kansas. “My mom committed suicide when I was 8. I grew up at a young age and I grew up faster after having that experience,” he said. “The village of people that raised me taught me two things: stand true to your values and life is short. You don’t get a second chance and the first impression should be the same as the rest; having good character and moral values is what people see in me.” His grandpa, Donnie, started out riding bulls at a young age and transitioned to team roping, which he competed in until he passed away in 2021. Alex is forever grateful for his grandparents who gave him the foundation of his rodeo knowledge. “They raised me to the person I am today.” The Mentzer family of Toby, Janet and Peyton took him in and helped him get to the next level. “They prepared me for college rodeo and life.” Alex is appreciative of all who have encouraged him. “Without the support of my grandparents, the Mentzers’, the Munsells’, and many others, my rodeo career would not be where it is at today,” he said.
“He’s like my little brother,” said Wacey Munsell, who is seven years his senior. “He’s got a deep background on both ends of the arena and I’m super proud of what he’s been able to do.”
Alex competed in the Kansas High School Rodeo Association, making it to Nationals in Gillette in 2015. He served as the regional student director while attending college. He also served as the 2016-2017 NIRA National Student President. “We were instilled as directors to encourage and help the production of rodeos. As a student director, I took advantage of that, in thinking of spectators and sponsors and families, we always work to produce a show that is timely.” He took the knowledge he learned through his rodeo career to help other rodeos work better. Alex is a board member for the Ulysses Stampede, a bull fighter at the College National Finals and served as the chute boss for the 2023 Kansas Pro Rodeo Association (KPRA) Finals in Dodge City, Kansas. Alex has been a member of KPRA for several years. He appreciates the association’s heart for rodeo. “The sky’s the limit because they have a passion for rodeo,” Alex said.
Alex is also active in the NIRA, fighting bulls at the 2023 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper, Wyoming. He sees college rodeo as a stepping stone for contestants. College can be a doorway towards making it into pro rodeos in addition to giving athletes an education to fall back on. During his time in college, Alex competed in tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and bullfighting. He competed on three different occassions the CNFR; twice in the team roping in 2016 and 2018; steer wrestling in 2017. He has been fortunate to work as a bull fighter at the last three CNFR’s.
Alex loves the adrenaline rush of bullfighting and being able to protect contestants. He started fighting bulls at 14 years old. He remembers the Munsell family- Doug, Lorrie, Wacey and Baleigh- were raising bucking bulls at that time. “I attempted to ride a bull and failed miserably,” Alex said. “Wacey, a World Champion Bull Fighter and my best friend, recommended that I end my bull riding career and try bullfighting.” Alex also attended the final school that Rex Dunn put on in Waurika, Oklahoma in 2011. Rex Dunn had a professional bullfighting career for 16 years and worked three National Finals Rodeos. After ending his bullfighting career, he began conducting bullfighting schools like the one Alex attended. Alex is grateful for the Munsell’s hand in shaping his bullfighting experience. “They have all been instrumental in getting my bullfighting where it is today,” he said. He continues to compete in team roping and steer wrestling but wasn’t able to compete this season due to breaking his wrist while bullfighting.
Alex’s favorite aspect of rodeo is the community and the relationships he has been able to build throughout it. “You get to meet so many good people,” he said. “We all share the same passions and that’s our western heritage.” He remembers the first time he went to Las Vegas for Benny Binions Bucking Horse & Bull Sale in 2015. He was traveling alone and planned to meet other bullfighters and friends in Las Vegas. He was worried that he wouldn’t know many people there. In the airport he ended up seeing people he knew and continued to come across other friends throughout his travels. He appreciates the way that these relationships changed his outlook for that rodeo.
Alex feels that these relationships have grown his character just as rodeo has grown his attitude and mindset. “I do remember saying to myself, there’s probably several people that would love to be doing what you’re doing so be appreciative and stay positive; be positive for being able to do it,” Alex said. Alex feels supported in his passion for rodeo by his loved ones, including his wife of six years, Tiana “I couldn’t continue my rodeo career without my wife’s support,” Alex said. “I am very blessed to have her in my life.” They met through a mutual friend. As a traveling X-ray and Cat Scan technician, she works through an agency and can pick a place to work. ”We always sit down before she goes, and we are able to schedule around my contracts. Currently, she works four tens and comes home for three days.”
Tiana loves to travel with Alex. “Rodeo people are the best people and some of our closest friends. They are the nicest people you can meet. We go everywhere – from college rodeos to pro.” The couple got married in September of 2017 and spent their honeymoon at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. “I had never been before.”
His first job out of college was a loan officer at Bank of Ulysses. After three years, he decided to switch it up and took a job at Pioneer Communications, a telecommunications company, headquartered in southwest Kansas as a business support specialist. “We serve 14 counties, and my job is to advise businesses on their telecommunication needs. “There’s satisfaction to that,” he said. “I get to network with our community members and assist their needs.”
Alex is grateful for the community who has aided him in his rodeo career. “I’m thankful for my family and friends and anybody who’s had a hand in raising me or being a part of my life, and I’m grateful to be a part of theirs.”