Nearing the end of last weekend’s University of Providence rodeo in Great Falls, Mont., Del Nose did some quick calculations.
To his dismay, he figured his Northwest College men’s team had lost the Big Sky Region rodeo championships on the last day of the season after leading the standings since September.
Nose believed Montana State, which had been chasing the Trappers throughout the fall and spring portions of the season had finally done it.
“They had several chances to go past us,” Nose said. “We didn’t do as well as we should have.”
But Nose’s gloomy thoughts were incorrect. When the final tabulations were registered, the Trappers were victorious by 89 points out of 12,000-plus scored.
“I lost it,” Nose said. He said he was jumping around pumping his fist and screaming, “Yes!”
After dominating the fall part of the season, the Trappers led by about 1,200 points. The Bobcats came on strong during the second half, nibbling away each week. The final point totals were 6,100 for Northwest and 6,011 for Montana State.
“I’ll take it,” Nose said.
The Montana State women also won the crown, with Northwest finishing fourth.
The regular-season is complete, but the Trappers will take a shot at the national title in the College National Finals Rodeo on June 10-16 in Casper.
No one contributed more to the Trappers’ regional championship than Caleb McMillan of Soap Lake, Wash. McMillan piled up a huge plurality in claiming the all-around prize, well over 1,000 points ahead of second place.
“He had a tremendous season,” Nose said.
McMillan collected points every which way, even grabbing a high finish in bull dogging last weekend after hardly doing it this season.
McMillan owned the Big Sky season, coming in first in bull riding and tie-down roping, fourth as a team roping header and third in saddle bronc.
The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association has 11 regions and McMillan’s 2,690 1/2 points were more than any other cowboy in the nation.
“That’s how it’s supposed to go,” McMillan said with a grin in summing up his and Northwest’s superb season. “It was an awesome fall. This winter it didn’t go too well.”
Still, it was better being the hunted than the hunter.
“It’s been a good year,” McMillan said. “It’s my best season.”
Unlike sports regulated by the NCAA, college rodeo participants can enter pro rodeos and McMillan, 21, is active on the circuit. Sunday, he was already back in Washington and won $2,200 in an Ellensburg rodeo.
McMillan is one class shy of a welding degree at Northwest, but said he may return to earn a second degree in range management.
While the event standings shifted weekly, when the spinning stopped, McMillan was not the only Trapper ranked highly.
Justin Ketzenberg was third in bull riding and Keaton Martz fifth, Austin Herrera eighth and Beau Smith 11th.
Herrera said he felt rusty after the three-month seasonal intermission.
“I feel better now,” he said. “It’s been a good year for the team.”
Ketzenberg said he has been riding well, and before the Great Falls events hoped the team could shake its comparative recent slump.
“I think everyone needs to get their heads on straight,” he said.
Calvin Shaffer won saddle bronc riding going away, with Clancy Glenn fourth, just behind McMillan. Cody Weeks scored seventh and Logan Nunn was 13th in points.
Team roping header Will Griffel was second with his counterpart Colten Fisher taking second as a heeler. Although he did not compete after the first semester, Bubba Boots was seventh as a team roping heeler. Hagen Wallace was 13th as a heeler.
On the women’s side, Braily Newman took fourth in breakaway roping and 15th in goat tying and Scout Yochum was 14th in goat tying.
Basically in tune with Ketzenberg, McMillan thought less of the Trappers keeping their heads on straight than their rear ends on straight while riding livestock.
Northwest won the team title with many top performers. McMillan said getting to Casper was the goal.
“Then kick their butts,” he said of doing something special on the national level.
Big Sky Region Rodeo Final Standings
1) Northwest College, 6,100; 2) Montana State, 6,011; 3) University of Montana Western, 4,047; 4) University of Montana, 2,483; 5) Montana State Northern, 1,920; 6) Dawson Community College, 997; 7) Miles Community College, 984.5; 8) University of Providence, 234.
1) Montana State, 5,799.16; 2) University of Montana Western, 2,365.33; 3) University of Montana, 1,646; 4) Northwest College, 901.33; 5) Montana State Northern, 666.5; 6) University of Providence, 362; 7) Dawson Community College, 258.33; 8) Miles Community College, 246.33.