CASPER, Wyo. - Walla Walla Community College won its second men's team championship in five years here Saturday night at the College National Finals Rodeo.
Led by Bryce Palmer's first-place finish in the men's all-around standings, the Walla Wallans totaled 750 points and overtook Sam Houston State during the rodeo's top-10 finals that capped the week-long competition. Sam Houston finished with 670 points and Missouri Valley came in third with 530 points.
Blue Mountain, Walla Walla's heated rival in the Northwest Regional during the regular season, placed 23rd with 200 points and Treasure Valley was 34th with 85 points. Eastern Oregon University scored 30 points for 46th place.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this team," Walla Walla Coach Buster Barton said. "It's amazing. Anytime you can take a team from a two-year community college and compete against the four-year schools and come out on top, it's pretty darn special."
Of the top 10 schools in the final men's team standings, eight were four-year colleges. Wharton City Junior College of Wharton, Texas, placed eighth.
Palmer, a Touchet High product and the son of Brent Palmer, a longtime cattleman and cowboy in this area who also roped at WWCC, finished second in the average in tie-down roping and second in team roping with partner Jake Minor.
Palmer accounted for 365 of his team's points and finished well ahead of Shay Carroll of Northeastern Junior College, who was second in the all-around standings with 280 points. Chant DeForest of Western Oklahoma State was third with 255.
Palmer roped and tied his final calf in 10 seconds flat, which was good for fifth place in the short go. His time of 39 seconds on four calves put him second in the final standings.
DeForest was clocked in 8.1 seconds to finish first in the final run. And his 36.2 time in the average was also first.
Palmer and Minor caught their final steer in 10.5 seconds. It was their slowest run of the rodeo and gave them am eighth-place finish in the finals. But their 27.9 time in the average was the second fastest.
Carroll and his partner, Tyler Scnhaufer of the University of Wyoming, were 6.3 in the finals, good for second place, and their 24.9 time in the average gave them the national team roping championship. Jesey Austin of Wharton and Caleb Daugherty of McNeese State teamed up for a 5.4 time to win the final round.
Mitch Dove was WWCC's only other finals qualifier. Dove roped his final calf in 10.2 seconds to finish seventh in the round, and his 42.3 time in the average was good for sixth place overall.
Walla Walla trailed Sam Houston State by 110 points going into the finals.
"Just the fact that we had four guys - three, actually, with four ways to score - in the short round was a confidence booster," Barton said. "Sam Houston had four as well, as did Montana State. It was a level playing field and that gave our guys confidence."
One of Walla Walla's two women who qualified for the national rodeo made it into the finals.
Rachel Roberts tied her final goat in 8.3 seconds. She finished ninth in the round, and her 28.6 time in the average was good for seventh place.
Overall, Barton said, "It was a tremendous rodeo."
"The stock was the best by far in the eight years that I have been coaching," he said. "On both sides of the arena, it was phenomenal.
"The calves were all even. They had 55 there, and you could win on every one of them. A lot of times there are three or four bad ones that will darn sure take you out of it, but this year there didn't seem to be those kind of animals.
"And the rough stock was tough to ride. It's kind of a catch 22. If they are tough to ride, you don't ride as much, but you score more points when you do."
Barton said he wasn't sure who would return next season and who would be moving on, either into the professional ranks full time or on to four-year schools.
"I know that now that we've won the national championship, some of them are thinking about coming back to school," he said. "Bo Segerman, our saddle bronc rider, will be going to Montana Northern to get his bachelor's degree. Bryce and Jake will rodeo all summer, but their plans are still up in the air.
"I do know that we have a great crop of freshmen coming in, and we look forward to being in the running again someday soon."