Camden duo roping some attention in rodeo

Wyatt Long, a 16-year-old from Camden, has been involved in rodeo for about six years. (Submitted photo)

CAMDEN — It’s not like people around here don’t see their share of horses and cows.

Still, telling their classmates about rodeo usually takes a little bit of explaining for Caesar Rodney High’s Wyatt Long and Dawson Mitchell.

They are the only high school rodeo competitors in Delaware after all.

“Really, they just think it’s crazy,” said 15-year-old Mitchell. “You’ve got to explain a lot of it to them.

“They don’t really know too much about it,” he added. “When you think of rodeo, you just think of riding bulls. But there’s more to it.”

Dawson Mitchell, a 15-year-old from Camden, has teamed up with Long for four years. (Submitted photo)

The Camden teammates are good enough at roping that they’ve earned a spot in the National High School Finals Rodeo. They’re slated to compete in the event on July 17-23 in Gurthrie, Okla.

The event is expected to draw 1,650 competitors from 43 U.S. states as well as Australia, Mexico and five Canadian provinces.

Long and Mitchell will be competing in team roping with Long also taking part in the tie-down roping event.

Since Delaware doesn’t have any other high school competitors, the two actually earned their spot in nationals by finishing high in the event standings in Pennsylvania.

Dawson Mitchell (left) and Wyatt Long are slated to compete in a national rodeo in Oklahoma next month. (Submitted photo)

The teammates know some of the competitors may look at them a little funny when they say they’re from Delaware.

“They probably won’t even know where Delaware is,” Mitchell joked. “You’re really putting Delaware out on the map sometimes when you go places.”

The two teenagers have known each other their whole lives. They’ve been rodeo teammates for about four years.

Long, whose dad was involved with rodeo when he was younger, got involved in the sport first.

After taking part in the sport himself for about six years, Long said he likes “the competition and the way everybody comes together.

“It’s really unlike any other sport,” said the 16-year-old Long, who will be a junior at CR in the fall. “Everybody comes together and it’s like one big family.”

Being involved in calf roping comes with its share of bumps and bruises, however. Both competitors are aware of the risks.

“There’s always the fact that something could go wrong and somebody could get hurt,” said Long. “But it’s not really something you think about.”

On the other hand, it’s not nearly as bad as bull riding, which Mitchell has competed in. In that sport, Mitchell said he’s broken an arm, ribs and fingers along with tearing up his shoulder.

But Mitchell said he really enjoys roping.

“It gets you an adrenaline rush,” he said. “It gets your nerves going. And it’s just fun to do. It’s challenging.”

Both Long and Mitchell say they appreciate the time and money their families have put into what’s usually a very expensive sport.

The two practice roping almost every day on the Mitchells’ Maple Grove Farm. They only practice with live cattle about once or twice a week.

Of course, taking good care of their horses and livestock takes a great deal of time and effort, too.

The two have their specific jobs on the team. Long ropes the calf’s head while Mitchell ropes its feet. The whole thing takes between four and 10 seconds.

“Everything really happens quick,” said Mitchell. “We tell each other when we’re doing something wrong. We help each other out and we’re really honest.”

The NHSFR competition offers $375,000 in scholarship money. Long and Mitchell have their eye on continuing to compete together in college.

There are 12 colleges, mostly out west, that compete in rodeo.

The two go into the national event believing they have a chance to be competitive. The NHSFR, which is billed as ‘the world’s largest rodeo,’ will be televised on www.RidePass.com.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Long. “A lot of hard work and hours of practice have came together for this and I couldn’t be more grateful & excited for this opportunity.”

“We get to go out there, meet a lot of new people and see a lot of different things,” said Mitchell. “It’s going to be a really good learning experience.

“I really think anything can happen out there. They were running seven or eight-second runs last year and that’s what me and my partner run now. We’ve got a pretty good shot but anything can happen.”