CASPER, Wyo. - Going into this season, Blue Mountain Community College could count 12 national champions going back to 1971, including names like Mike Beers, Mike Curren, Brad Goodrich, Becky Fullerton, John Opie and Rocky Steagall.
One fact that stands out among the list of 12, however, is the Timberwolves had a pair of titles in bull riding and saddle bronc but none in bareback. Another fact to stand out was the year the T-Wolves last topped the nation in any event - 1999.
Both of those points became moot at about 7 p.m. local time Saturday night though, as BMCC?freshman R.C Landingham edged Walla Walla Community College cowboy and good friend Steven Peebles by one point in the short round to win the national bareback title at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
Landingham also won rookie of the year and totalled near $5,000 in prize money and scholarships.
Landingham covered Harry Vold Rodeo Company's Billy the Kid for a score of 83.5 to win the short round and jump another good friend, Danny Webb of Feather River College, for the title in front of an announced crowd of 4,000.
"I?came here with hopes of making the short round and then making the top three was awesome and being able to win - it's almost like it hasn't clicked yet,"?Landingham said shortly after the win.
"Obviously that's a great achievement by that young man,"?Blue Mountain Athletic Director Brett Bryan said. "It's different for those guys. He's already rodeoing and making money but as long as that young man can stay healthy he's probably got a long career ahead of him."
Landingham was third to last to ride in the short round since he came in tied with Peebles a half point behind Webb.
The highest score before Landingham's ride was an 81 by West Texas' Luke Creasy, who ended up taking third in the round. But both of the closest competitors to the top three were more than five points back and scored in the high 70's.
"I think everybody covered but one guy but I?really wasn't worried until the two guys that rode after me,"?Landingham said.
Billy the Kid, which put up an 82 in the first round, came through again and ended up being the difference for Landingham, since Peebles was hurt by his draw.
"I?knew I?was going to be in the lead,"?Landingham said. "I?was happy with it, I?was pretty confident it was going to hold up."
Peebles drew Harry Vold's Hypnotic, the horse that was ridden to the CNFR?short round win last year. But Hypnotic couldn't hold out for eight seconds and gave up on the run just before the horn.
"Steven's horse really hurt his score,"?Landingham said. "Steven rode him really perfect but his horse quit kicking there at the end."
Peebles, who scored an 82.5 in the round, said that definitely was the difference between first and second.
"My horse was really good out of there and then he really just kind of run off,"?he said. "He cost me a national championship but I?sure am glad one of my friends won.
"(Landingham) jumped up there with an 83 and kind of got my motor running and I wanted to get up there and match him but my horse really hurt me in the end."
Webb drew Pilot Point, which had a National Finals Rodeo to his name, but could manage just a 76 and ended up in third for the season.
"Danny's horse was really strong, a hard one to draw,"?Landingham said. "But he rode him the best he could."
Blue Mountain coach Tygh Campbell said Landingham's title was well-earned.
"I'm really proud of him, he rode good all year," Campbell said. "The thing with R.C.?is if he knows there is a problem he's working on it all the time. Some kids try to make excuses but he's always finding out what it is and working on it."
"He's talented and works hard at it," Campbell added. "There's a lot of guys that say they want it but saying you want it and putting in the time and work is a completely different thing."
He added a few days spent with National Finals cowboy Kelly Wardell prior to the CNFR?really seemed to help Landingham.
"Working with a guy that's been to the National Finals and been in the winner's circle, he got some things hammered out," Campbell said. "He stepped up, he rode outstanding all week. He's a national champion for that simple reason. I?think his confidence was really good coming into this this rodeo."
Landingham said he plans to celebrate his win like any true cowboy.
"For me I'm going to go up to a bunch of pro rodeos right now, so just go rodeoing,"?he said.
Landingham plans to hit several stops in the Northwest this year before going for the big show next year.
"I'm rodoeing on a permit right now and I?have it filled so I?can buy my card any time I?want to but I'm going to wait until next year and try to win (PRCA)?rookie of the year,"?he said.