By Stan Caldwell
PRCC Sports Information
POPLARVILLE – The Pearl River Community College rodeo team has accomplish a lot in a short period of time.
Just a year after the program was started, the Wildcats have completed a successful first season of competition, including sending a rider to the College National Finals Rodeo in Wyoming.
Now PRCC will another big step as the Wildcats host the season-opening event in the Ozark Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
The PRCC Rodeo will be held next week at the J. Lynn Cartlidge Multi-Purpose Center in Hattiesburg, beginning on Thursday.
"It's a great opportunity, a privilege really, to be in our second year and be accepted to host a rodeo," said PRCC coach/advisor Robbie Shaw. "Our kids are excited about it, I'm excited about it; I just hope it turns out to be a good deal."
Shaw said all 13 schools in the Ozark Region will compete in the Hattiesburg rodeo, along with a number of individual competitors from other schools.
Besides PRCC, teams in the Ozark Region include Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas-Cossatot, East Mississippi Community College, Kentucky, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri Valley, Murray State, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Southern Arkansas, Three River (Mo.), Thennessee-Martin and West Alabama.
PRCC got a late start on planning the event, as Shaw did not get the final notice that it had been approved to host until late July.
"The kids have been knocking on doors, trying to get sponsorships to help pay for this," said Shaw. "It's going to cost us about $28,000, from beginning to end."
The Wildcats had a solid debut season, capped by freshman Andrew Burks' third-place finish in tie-down roping in June at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
Burks chose not to return to the team this season, but Shaw is optimistic about the Wildcats as they move into their second season of competition.
Besides, Burks, the Wildcats also had several other competitors place among the Top 15 in the region in their specialties, including returning sophomores Ryder Ladner (Kiln), Nick Gonzales (Carriere) and Chelsey Johnson (Poplarville), plus PRCC has some talented newcomers joining the program.
"We've got a kid from Texas, Austin Tuley (Red Oak, Texas), who's been team roping with Nick, and it looks like they've developed a rapport with each other," said Shaw.
"I think Ryder is going to be more competitive this year. He didn't have a bad season, but it wasn't what we expected out of him."
Other Wildcat team members this season are Selena Broom (Purvis), Scott Davis (Lucedale), Emily Favre (Kiln), Chase Graves (Poplarville), Tyler Holder (Lucedale), Abby Holliday (Poplarville), Tyler Ladner (Poplarville), Zeak Shorter (Florence), Tyler Stuart (Brandon), Cole Thomas (Poplarville) and Kirk Williams (Stringer).
Action begins each night at 7:30 p.m., with preliminary rounds on Thursday and Friday, and the championship finals on Saturday. Admission will be $10 each night.
Sponsorships are also available for VIP seating and other enhancements. Contact Shaw at 601-795-5836 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Although this year's event has yet to take place, Shaw has already made contacts in the South Mississippi rodeo community about next year.
"I think the short notice hurt us a little bit; a lot of folks had already budgeted their money," said Shaw. "I understand that, so that's why we're already talking about next year. With a full year to plan, I think we can make this one of the better events on the circuit."