Pearl River Community College is getting ready to saddle up this fall as it puts the finishing touches on its inaugural rodeo team.
The PRCC Board of Trustees approved the addition of rodeo to its roster of varsity sports at its June monthly meeting Thursday at Poplarville.
“This program provides an opportunity to reach out to a variety of students in our area,” said Dr. Adam Breerwood, vice president for the Poplarville and Hancock campuses. “People are very excited about this, and we have donations coming in from all over.”
At present, Breerwood said the school plans to offer 15 full tuition scholarships for rodeo competitors, which includes men and women.
“It’s a good opportunity to draw kids to the PRCC campus and allow them to continue rodeoing,” said Kevin Ladner, president of the Hancock Rodeo Club in Kiln.
“This is an area that has always promoted rodeo. At the high school level, I say probably 80 to 85 percent are from the Pearl River district. This area has produced a number of national champions.”
When the team begins competition this fall, it will join Mississippi State, East Mississippi Community College and Northwest Mississippi as the only schools in the state offering a competitive rodeo team.
Robbie Shaw, a precision machining technology instructor at PRCC, will serve as the team’s coach/advisor.
“We have a lot of kids from this area who go out of state, or out of the district, who want to stay close to home and compete in rodeo at college,” said Shaw, who has been involved with rodeo as a participant and official for more than 20 years.
“They’re going to go to a school where they can rodeo and get some support.”
PRCC will be a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, the sanctioning body for rodeo at the college level.
The Wildcats will compete in the Ozark Region of the NIRA, along with East Mississippi, Northwest, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Missouri Valley (Mo.), Southern Arkansas, Three Rivers (Mo.), Cossatot Community College (Ark.), Arkansas-Monticello and Troy.
PRCC will compete in 10 rodeos in the 2016-17 school year, five in the fall and five in the spring, culminating in the National College Rodeo at Casper, Wyoming next June.
“This is good news,” said Ryder Ladner, one of three incoming freshmen who will compete for the Wildcats this fall. “I was dreading having to move off to join a new crew. Now I can stay close to home.”
Ladner, a graduate of Hancock High, is one of three incoming freshmen who are the team’s initial signees, along with Andrew Burks of Hancock and Chelsey Johnson of Poplarville.
Shaw says he will have more riders signing on in the coming weeks.
“We had an awful lot of interest last week at the (Mississippi High School Rodeo Association) state championships last week in Hattiesburg,” Shaw said. “I believe we will be very competitive right from the get-go.”