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High school and college rodeo at a standstill

Rodeo is a sport that lends itself to social distancing, but that doesn’t mean athletes around the county who take part in the sport haven’t been affected by COVID-19.

Frank Graves was in his first season as the Head Coach of the rodeo program at Pearl River Community College when the season was shut down by the NJCAA.

His six athletes had only attended two of the originally scheduled five rodeos before everyone was sent home.

Now they, just like their high school counterparts, are left without any rodeos to compete in. Bryce Graves and Kason Davis are former national champion team ropers who were looking forward to once again competing on the biggest stage.

Instead they’re continuing to train in hopes of staying sharp for when things return to normal.  Graves and Davis both have their own arenas to practice in, so the closure of most public spaces, including the Poplarville arena, hasn’t prevented the two from getting some practice in.

That being said, they make sure to help out other rodeo athletes who may not have the necessary facilities to practice their skills.

“I have a couple buddies who don’t have an arena and say they want to rope somewhere, well if they call me I’ll let them. You have to do what you can to make sure everybody is getting in their work too,” Davis said.

Having the necessary facilities to continue practicing roping has allowed Davis and Graves to block out all the negativity surrounding the Coronavirus. “It’s probably a blessing that I am able to do something that keeps me busy and away from the TVs and look at all the crazy mess going on. Really all I’ve done is worked, roped and fished,” Davis said. The schools closing down and competitions being canceled means that Frank Graves now has to look to the future of his program. Graves said there have been some improvements made to try and draw in more athletes with each passing year, and he’s hoping they pay off. “We’re putting in a horse barn where kids who come (out of town) can bring horses here. We have a practice facility for new kids coming in. We’re just trying to better the program to get more athletes here,” Graves said.