July 26, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

JOSEPH Shawn Waite opened the first day of the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo with an 81-point bull ride Thursday night.

The Kuna, Idaho, cowboy topped a tough field which included Vince Stanton and Cory McFadden, the sixth- and 11th-ranked bull riders in the world.

Instead it was Waite, riding a bull named Winchester, who scored the highest. Waite was one of only four riders out of 12 who completed an eight-second ride. McFadden was second with 79 points and Stanton third with a 78.

The rodeo continues at 7 tonight and Saturday, concluding Sunday with a 2 p.m. start time.

Daniel Green of Oakdale, Calif., and Allen Bach of Valley Home, Calif., caught their steer in six seconds in team roping to take a first-day lead. Green was ranked as the fifth-best header and Bach the fifth-best healer in the world standings entering Thursday.

The six-second time easily beat last years best overall team-roping time of 11.5 seconds.

Another mark that may be hard to beat before the four-day rodeo is over is Craig Lathams 84-point ride in the saddle bronc riding.

Latham of Goodwell, Okla., rode the horse Ft. McLoud, beating out third-ranked Dan Mortensen who took fourth with a 75. Last years best score was a 78.

Other first-day leaders include Joann Middleton of Levelland, Texas, in barrel racing with a 17.43-second time. Tyler Bronkhorst of Walla Walla lead the steer wrestlers with a 4.7-second time, and Spike McCay of Eugene roped his calf in 10.9 seconds.

Andy Bolich of Mead, Wash., leads the bareback riding with a 75-point score.

Chief Joseph Days

Thursday results

Barrel racing 1. Joann Middleton, Levelland, Texas, 17.43 seconds; 2. Renee Gossett, Wittman, Ariz., 17.58; 3. Tara Polich, Canby, 17.66; 4. Barbara Bartos, Abbotsford, British Columbia, 17.97; 5. Carolyn Jensen, Marcola, 18.01.

Team roping 1. Daniel Green, Oakdale, Calif., and Allen Bach, Valley Home, Calif., 6.0 seconds; 2. Paul Mullins, Chatsworth, Calif., and Dennis Watkins, Bakersfield, Calif., 6.8; 3. Larry Stewart, Royal City, Wash., and Ryan Stewart, Royal City, Wash., 7.2; 4. Justin Matteson, Heppner, and Bob Burril, Prairie City, 8.5; Chris Hayes, Monroe, Wash., and Mike Wallen, Stanwood, Wash., 11.9.

Steer wrestling 1. Tyler Bronkhorst, Walla Walla, Wash., 4.7 seconds; 2. Travis Taruscio, Missoula, Mont., 4.9; 3. Michael Reger, Dexter, 5.6; 4/5 split, Chip Giles, Loweden-Touchet, Wash., and Buster Barton, Walla Walla, Wash., 5.8.

Calf roping 1. Spike McCay, Eugene, 10.9 seconds; 2. Jay Don Greenwood, Unity, 12.2; 3. Paul Cope, Nampa, Idaho, 13.0; 4. Joe Hoffman, Hermiston, 15.1; 5. Shane Crossley, Hermiston, 18.2.

Bull riding 1. Shawn Waite, Kuna, Idaho, on Winchester, 81 points; 2. Cory McFadden, Crane, Texas, 79; 3. Vince Stanton, Weiser, Idaho, 78; 4. Tyler Crockett, Indian Valley, 76.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Craig Latham, Goodwell, Okla., on Ft. McLoud, 84 points; 2. Billy Etbauer, Red Heights, S.D., 82; 3. Jess Martin, Dillon, Mont., 78; 4. Dan Mortensen, Billings, Mont., 75; 5. Red Lemmel, Faith, S.D., 73.

Bareback riding 1. Andy Bolich, Mead, Wash., on Irish Mike, 75 points; 2. Grant Richie, Walla Walla, Wash., 70; 3. Dan Miller, Raleigh, N.D., 69.