Reigning College National Finals champion tie-down roper Kincade Henry returned to Casper, Wyoming, looking to add another national title to his resume, and he achieved just that Saturday, June 17, 2023.
After tying down four calves in 35.8 seconds to win the 2023 College National Finals Rodeo title, Henry joined a select group of calf ropers who have consecutively defended their title. The last to do so was Ryan Watkins in 2004 and 2005.
The junior at Texas A&M-Commerce appears to suit high-pressure situations in little yellow arenas—like the Thomas & Mack and the Ford Wyoming Center—quite well. The 2022 Wrangler NFR qualifier held his own just fine in his first NFR appearance last December, and he continues to prove his dominance at the College Finals.
“It seems like the bigger (more prestigious) places I seem to do good in,” Henry said. “I guess I need to start taking it more serious at the smaller ones because whenever I get to a place like this or at my first Finals—whenever the pressure’s on—that’s when I love what I’m doing. I find peace inside this arena and I just, I love it.”
In the first round, Henry had a first run on his calf, so he had to play the start by ear. When he realized his calf was on the slower end of the herd, he wasn’t sure he got out clean.
“The first round, I didn’t really know what calf I had, and I took the start everybody else was taking and my calf loped very slowly,” Henry explained. “The whole run, I thought I broke the barrier. I honestly just told myself slow down and tie her. I was walking back to my horse with my head down and they’re screaming at me that I was out.”
Clean at the barrier, Henry won the first round with an 8.3. He went on to take back-to-back round wins, tying his second calf in 8.1 seconds for the round win.
“The rest of the week, I had a match roping mentality and just went and tried to tie them down and stay in the average,” Henry said. “I didn’t know it was going to fall apart this much, but I knew if I just went and did my job, I’d be good.”
He ran his third calf in the Wednesday performance and tied him in 9.0 seconds. His 25.4 aggregate on three head gave him a 3-second lead going into the championship round. And despite the lead, the accolades and thousands of miles traveled, Henry still found himself nervous for Saturday’s short round.
“All 10 rounds of the NFR, I wasn’t as nervous as I was right there whenever I just had to be 13,” Henry said with a laugh. “I don’t get nervous about anything, but my stomach was hurting, and I was nervous. I was probably three foot off the barrier here. It adds a little bit of pressure, but I think that’s what makes champions. Whenever you can get put under pressure, no matter how it’s applied, I think that’s what builds champions.”
And like a champion, Henry handled the pressures of the short round as a reigning national champion perfectly. He made a businessman run after watching the short round fall apart, posting a 10.4-second run to take the national title back to Mount Pleasant, Texas. Henry also believes the sermons held outside of the Ford Wyoming Center each night starting Tuesday, led by Corey Ross, a pastor and steer roper, helped him in his hunt for a second national title.
“Every time we come here and get to listen to him preach every day, I’m not a perfect person, but listening to him talk about God, it brings me closer to God,” Henry said. “I have peace within myself just getting to listen to Mr. Corey talk. I think that’s a big part of this week, too.”
Henry cracked out a horse he bought only three weeks prior to the CNFR, CD. The 13-year-old gelding went through Carl Cox, father to NFR calf roper Blane, and Marcos Costa before Henry bought him from Bucky Harmon.
Henry notes that while CD isn’t the flashiest horse going right now, he’s as solid as can be and gives Henry a chance to win every time he nods his head.
“He wasn’t as flashy as maybe I’d hoped, but he doesn’t cost me anywhere and he is letting me win,” Henry said. “So, it’s hard to complain about that. Honestly, I’ve been on the horses that score great and are hard running and have a big stop—the flashy ones—and those are the ones I have trouble winning on. Usually if I can just get on a horse that can get me there, and them just quarter a little bit and get out my way, those are the horses I win on. So, I think it’s going to be a good summer.”
Not every college athlete is also vying for their spot in the Top 15 each year. And for Henry, adding that on top of schoolwork and college rodeo makes things even more challenging.
“It’s for sure hectic,” Henry said. “I mean, the good part is that our main season is in the summer whenever we’re off school, so it’s not too bad. have my calendar and I have everything written down; I have to stay on top of everything. Honestly, the hardest part of it is during hunting season whenever I’m trying to rope, hunt and do school. But I think it’s just about time management.”
Henry plans to return to Texas A&M–Commerce to finish his degree. With $23,042.19 won on the year in the PRCA, Henry is also hitting the road hard this summer to fight for his spot at another NFR. Henry heads next to Prineville, Oregon, followed by Reno on Friday, June 23.