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Hildebran – It takes about 8 seconds to tie a shoelace, make a first impression, or get bored of a video. It takes William Bove, a fifth grader at Hildebran Elementary School, exactly 8 seconds to win championships.

William, 10, has been riding cowboys since he was 3 years old. He started raising sheep and advanced to horses and now rides nearly half a ton of calves. Earlier this month, William became a two-time winner of the World Miniature Bull Riding Championships, passing a bull named Chucky in the junior division in Mesquite, Texas. Last year he won the Pewee Award at the same event. In both events, he was facing over 70 other young bull riders.

While most 10-year-olds collect video games or Lego games, William collects championship belts. He’s about 50 so far, and the blonde-haired, brown-eyed, 75-pound boy doesn’t stop there.

“I look at them (the championship belt buckle) every night, and I think my future is going somewhere,” he said.

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This “somewhere” is all the way to the Professional Bull Riders with some of his champions, many of whom he has already met, such as JB Mauney, Daylon Swearinger and Ezekiel Mitchell.

Although the mention of going to the pros makes his mom, Chelsey Smith, cringe a little, she and his dad, Tray Buff, are his biggest fans.

“My mom is fine with it as long as he’s graduating from high school,” Smith said. “He has to graduate from high school.”

In many ways, William is a typical fifth grader. He has an older sister who is 12 years old and a younger brother who is 5 years old. He loves pizza, tacos, Dr. Pepper and sweet tea, he has a girlfriend he’s known since kindergarten, and his favorite subject is math.

Terry Penland is one of his teachers at Hildebran Primary School.

“William is a good student,” he said. “He excels in mathematics and works well with his peers. He loves to practice different sports while resting with his classmates.”

Penland saw William riding during the summer in Hickory.

“It was really cool to see him ride a bull,” he said. “I can’t imagine the fears and hurdles he had to overcome to conquer riding the bulls. He is definitely a very brave young man. I look forward to seeing him ride again soon.”

William has influenced at least one teammate and his younger brother to try the sport, but he said that bulls can get intimidated, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

“If you’re too afraid to ride one, it’s not the kind of sport you do,” he said. “Taurus feels you are afraid or not. Some people just go up and shake.”

“It’s a fun sport,” Smith added. “You have to be prepared. If you are afraid, you can hurt yourself.”

When William is not riding an ox or studying, he is on a four-wheeled cart, even though he buys it from his own profits. Although a two-time world champion comes with his own earnings, Smith said there are also expenses such as entrance fees, helmets, jackets, vests, professional photos, hotel expenses and other travel expenses.

Like other kids his age who practice travel sports, William and his family travel to rodeos for his sport year-round most weekends. While they do stay on some weekends close to home, other rodeos are located in places like neighboring Tennessee or as far away as Texas. William competed in Texas seven times in his young life.

William, who has been around horses his whole life, said that his love for the sport began when he was three, and one of his friends tempted him to ride a sheep. Since then, he has gone through back-to-back championships and bone breakdowns. William has broken some bones while playing football too, but he says riding bulls is more dangerous.

To prepare for his competition ride, William trains with a wounded barrel at home. He said he keeps fit by doing push-ups and sit-ups. His father is his coach and motivator because some of William’s “earnings” came from winning bets with his father. He got a cell phone after a rodeo and enough money to buy a felt hat he’d been watching after another by winning bets with his dad.

“I haven’t lost many bets,” he said.

The quick-witted William said he doesn’t follow his father when it comes to riding bulls.

“My father once rode an ox,” he said, “and the ox went right and turned left.”

But when it comes to being on top of a 1,200-pound animal, William loves to have his dad nearby.

“On the shoot, nobody’s in. I’m just a bull,” he said. “My comrades are making fun of me. And my father is pulling the ropes.”

Smith said she is proud of her son, who has come out with his own sponsorship, including local businesses like Select Tire Pros of Hildebran, Homer Feed and Seed, H&H Hauling, Ken Wilson Plumbing, Turkey Creek Ranch and Rodeo, and M&G Livestock . She said that seeing her son happy and her family together makes the travel, money, and bruising all worth it.

“He goes out and does what he loves to do and you put a smile on his face and he achieves what he wants to achieve,” she said.

William Bove appeared on the latest episode of the B.C. Public Schools podcast Learn in Burke To talk about his achievements. The full conversation can be accessed at tinyurl.com/3d2mch4s.

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