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2001/07/10

UT Martin Men's Rodeo Team Finishes 14th In Nation Strong individual performances in bull riding and calf roping led the UT Martin men's rodeo team to a 14th-place finish at the College National Finals Rodeo that ended this past Saturday in Casper, Wyoming. CNFR competition began June 12. Trevor Williford, a junior bull rider from Macedonia, Ill., and Wil Croncich, a senior calf roper from Okeechobee, Fla., finished sixth in their respective events in leading the team to a top-20 national finish. both overcame injuries to compete in college rodeo's premier event. Croncich broke his wrist in April at the UT Martin rodeo, but competed in the first-ever College Rodeo Championship Series May 16-19 in Enid, Okla., to earn a spot in the CNFR. Williford, also competing with a wrist injury, followed the same path that led to the national finals. "The two guys that we were probably the most concerned about coming off injuries ended up actually doing the best out there (in Casper)," said John Luthi, UT Martin rodeo coach. Besides injuries, the UT Martin team faced the largest field ever at the CNFR as 60 college teams came to Casper from the playoff rodeos. "The points were spread out a little bit more than they have been in the past," said Luthi, noting that only 22 teams previously qualified for the finals. "You have to have some breaks and you needed to draw some stock to help you. Some people got more breaks than others." The UT Martin women's team also made the trip to Casper but did not finish with a national ranking. The good news, Luthi said, is that all women's team members return next year. The Ozark Region champion men's team loses several members to graduation, but Luthi is optimistic about recruiting new talent to the program. As for this year, he is pleased with how both teams performed in the national spotlight at Casper. "Everybody competed well. We had some good things happen and some bad things happen, just like any other rodeo," Luthi said. "I want to thank the university, the community and West Tennessee for supporting the rodeo program. We look forward to having another strong season next year."

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