story by Lindsay Humphrey Unlike many of her peers, 13-year-old Sage Putnam didn’t get her start with horses in rodeo. She did, however, always have […]
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Meet the Member Jace Hensley
story by Lindsay Humphrey
“I really like competing in the junior bulls at the American Royal because usually there are a lot of kids in the crowd there cheering,” stated Jace Hensley from Paola, Kansas. “That really gets me fired up and ready, but they weren’t there this year because of COVID.” Fourteen-year-old Jace didn’t need the roar of the Sunday crowd at the American Royal this year. It was his third time competing at the Kansas City event, but it was the first time he ever won it. The first time Jace got on a junior bull he was 12 years old, but he hopped on his first steer several years prior. “My dad (Dan) rode broncs when he was my age and I wanted to give it a try, so I went to a steer riding camp. I got on a few and I’ve liked it ever since.”
Jace is a bull rider through and through and competed in the KJHSRA exclusively in that event for the first two years. Now as an eighth grader, Jace is sliding his hand into a suitcase handle as well as entering the saddle bronc riding. “My dad had a bareback rigging and my uncle had a bronc saddle, so I figured why not give them a try.” The first time Jace ever strapped into those events was when the fall 2020 junior high season kicked off in August. Only time will tell if he’ll be as successful in the bronc events as he is in the bull riding so far.
“The first real bull I got on was at a Christian Youth Rodeo Association (CYRA) rodeo where I just rode as an exhibition on their junior bulls. I fell off the first jump out, but I was still excited about it. I jumped up and smiled at my dad and a couple buddies on the back of the chutes. They all just laughed about that.” It’s these friends, and others, that Jace enjoys about competing in the KJHSRA. He also spends quite a bit of time entering the CYRA. He won the steer riding in the CYRA last year and came back to win the junior bulls this year. His success in the CYRA is promising, but it was state finals last summer that got Jace excited for his final junior high season.
“I qualified for nationals at state in the bull riding by placing third, but they canceled nationals. I watched all the high school kids go compete and it just wasn’t fun that we couldn’t go also.” Now back with one major goal in mind, Jace has his 11-year-old brother, Easton, by his side in the chutes at the KJHSRA events. “It’s cool riding with Easton; we support each other and help each other out. He’s a sixth grader and it’s been fun.” The rest of the Hensley clan – Jace’s mom, Crystal, and 7-year-old brother, Cade – also stand behind Jace as a bull rider, but they aren’t behind the chutes. “My parents have always been my number one supporters. I have a couple buddies who have helped me and are supportive also.”
Many of those friends are also in the KJHSRA. “We all help each other out and have a good time. All the people there are also supporting us and make it fun. Even all the judges and people like that are great. They’re always giving us tips and pumping us up when we’re getting ready and after we get off.” Although rodeo is Jace’s number one sport, he’s also a talented football player, wrestler and track star. Of those three, football is his favorite. The Paola Middle School eighth grader cheers on the Kansas City Chiefs each fall with his family. That’s in between rodeos and hunting trips for deer and turkey. Although Jace shows cattle and hogs in 4-H during the summer, everything always circles back to bull riding. “Obviously my parents are my role models in life because they’ve helped me with everything so far. But JB Mooney is the guy I like watching for rodeo. He’s good at riding bulls and he’s just tough.”