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Benton City bull rider off to nationals

The bigger and nastier the bull, the more points you are likely to earn if you can complete your 8-second ride.

Benton City native Laine Baze will be up for the challenge this week when he competes in bull riding at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.

The CNFR, which will feature 400 ropers and riders from more than 100 colleges, runs today through June 19 at the Casper Events Center.

"I'm very excited," Baze said of his first trip to the CNFR. "I heard there was plenty of stuff to do. I hope to get in some golfing and maybe some swimming -- things to get your mind off getting beat up."

Baze, 20, is in his first year at Walla Walla Community College. The 2008 Kiona-Benton graduate won the Northwest Regional bull riding title in May to earn a trip to nationals.

The 5-foot-7, 140-pound cowboy will take his first spin out of the chutes today on the back of one of Harry Vold's top bulls.

"I see every bull as a new bull," Baze said. "You have to ride them to win. I don't have any that I dislike. You just gotta go out and have fun. If you don't have fun, you shouldn't be out there."

Baze and the rest of the bull riders will get three rides, with the top 12 advancing to the finals.

Baze, who has been riding bulls for about six years, placed 30th out of 180 riders at the 2008 High School National Finals.

During the 2009 rodeo season, he competed on the Pro-West Circuit, winning the bull riding title and earning $12,631. He also took home a champion saddle and a buckle.

When he returns from the CNFR, he will be competing on the local PRCA circuit trying to fill his permit. Locally, he plans to ride at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston, the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick and the Pendleton Round-Up.

He's also competed in a few PBR events.

"That's a lot more intense," Baze said. "There are a lot more people looking at you and a lot more fans. A lot of bulls we get on at the PBR are the same ones we see at other rodeos."

Wednesday night, Baze was competing in an event in Benton City, with part of the proceeds going to help with his travel expenses to Wyoming.

"The college helps out a little bit, but there's a lot they don't cover," said Baze, who left Friday for the 14-hour drive to Casper.

The Warriors will send six men and four women to nationals, including Courtney Frazier of Touchet in barrel racing and goat tying, Lizz Combs of Eltopia in barrel racing and Brock Palmer of Milton-Freewater in tie-down roping.

Frazier, making her second trip to the CNFR, won her second straight women's Northwest Region all-around title and also won the barrel racing title. She also was fifth in goat tying and sixth in breakaway roping in the final Northwest Regional standings.

Frazier will have her first go-rounds in the barrels and goat tying Monday. Last year at nationals, Frazier finished 11th overall in goat tying and 30th in the barrels.

Jordan Crossley of Hermiston will compete in barrel racing for Central Washington University starting Monday. She will also team rope with CWU teammate Joey Bergevin. Last year, Crossley was 24th in the barrels while competing for WWCC.