Nolan blew better

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STUTTGART, Ark. — Ryan Nolan almost held it together after he was announced the winner of the 2008 World's Championship Duck Calling Contest.

His friends and family rushed the stage, smothering the barely 5-foot Nolan. A few seconds into the celebration, the trophy rose above the crowd and Nolan screamed.

With that burst of emotion, Nolan, 24, turned his efforts toward trying not to cry tears of joy.

"I'm on top of the world right now," Nolan said. "I've put in countless hours of work toward this."

The Roland, Okla., native walked away with $8,000 cash, a championship ring, and roughly $7,000 worth of duck hunting equipment.

It was a championship Nolan thought he let get away at the end of the third round. After posting the best score in round two, 259 out of 270, Nolan went into the third and final round in a tie for the lead and a boost in confidence.

His third round call was going as smoothly as his second until the last 15 seconds, when there was a hint of a squawk. When Nolan finished, he threw his arms down in disgust, because in his mind, he had just given away the championship.

"I was nervous because I knew that wasn't my best," Nolan said. "You don't want to leave anything out there. It turns out it wasn't as bad as I thought was."

It was bad — or good — enough to spark a call-off between him and Jesse Blom, who finished as the first runner-up. Neither knew exactly what they were calling for, but Nolan had his suspicions.

Blom came into the final round in fifth place, two points behind Nolan, but couldn't put the same performance together in the call-off.

Nolan started calling competitively in 2002 and qualified for his first championship in 2003. He'd been hovering around 10th for five years, and attributed his experience and practice for the breakthrough this year.

"Over time I've developed more power and that's allowed me to get more aggressive," Nolan said.

The Oklahoma state duck calling champion won using a call from Betts Game Calls that he worked hard before coming to the competition. An emotional Nolan couldn't put a number on the hours he's spent practicing over the years, but it was all for the 15 minutes he spent crying with friends and family on stage Saturday night.

It's a moment he hopes to experience again.

"Hopefully I can get another one before I get too old to do it," Nolan said.

Top 10
10. Jim Ronquest
9. Buddy Mann
8. John David Stanley III
7. Brad Allen
6. Brandon Sinkey
5. Todd Copley
4. David St. John
3. Kent Cullum
2. Jesse Blom
Champion: Ryan Nolan