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Pruden rodeo hogties heavy equipment

Pruden Center for Industry and Technology construction students participate in the “Heavy Construction Equipment Rodeo” at the center Thursday morning. The students test their skills by maneuvering through cones and performing other tasks.

High school students showed off their backhoe wrangling skills Thursday at the 10th annual Pruden Center for Industry and Technology Heavy Construction Equipment Rodeo.

Eighteen students competed in three timed events that tested their abilities to drive and maneuver construction equipment.

Pruden Center Director Corey McCray said the rodeo is a culmination of everything the students have learned in construction courses at the center.

“I think it’s certainly an exposé of the students’ skills,” he said.

Parents gathered in a roped-off parking lot-turned-obstacle-course to support their teenagers.

Spectators had a front seat to what many of the students said is the hardest event — pin placement.

In pin placement, competitors used a hook hanging from the arm of a backhoe to pull a pin from one location and place it in another.

Nansemond River junior Josh McGrath was the first to complete pin placement. During his performance, his mother, Annette, leaned to the right or left as if trying to guide the hook.

Annette McGrath said she loves that Josh is part of the heavy construction program at Pruden Center because it opens up job opportunities for him after he graduates.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m really proud of him.”

Josh’s grandmother, Helen Gizara, also came out to see him compete.

Kalup Boone won the pin placement event with a time under a minute.

The second event the students were asked to complete was an obstacle course. For this competition, they had to pick up gravel in the backhoe’s bucket, drive in first gear around cones to a dump truck, dump the stone and drive back.

Lamond White said the obstacle course is his favorite event.

“It’s the easiest one because you get to drive,” he said.

White placed first in the obstacle course with a time of 1 minute and 40 seconds.

The last event was push/pull, and Pruden Center construction instructor Rick Littrell said students are usually most apprehensive about this event.

“It takes a lot of touch,” he said.

Push/pull requires students use the shovel on the backhoe to pull the vehicle forward a certain distance and then push it back to its starting location.

It took the most time to finish out of all the events, Littrell said.

Travis Flatt, who also placed second in the obstacle course, had the best time for push/pull with 2 minutes and 39 seconds.

Flatt said he decided to take construction courses because he grew up on a farm and was familiar with the equipment.

“I just like driving construction equipment,” he said.

All of the participants received certificates for the competition, and Littrell said this class was one of the best he’s ever had during his time at Pruden Center.

“I think they did an outstanding job,” he said.