Earlier in the 2021 Pro Rodeo season, 22-year-old Caleb Hendrix set his goal to win the Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year Title. With less than a month left in the regular season, he has mastered his year-end goal with a more than $32,000 lead on the No. 2 man, Rance Doyal, with $20,372.79, after adding $14,264 to his earnings over the week of Sept. 2–6, 2021.
Hendrix, who is heeling for Utah’s Quinn Kesler, who is 14th in the World Standings with $57,163.06 in earnings, has unofficially won the Resistol Rookie race, has stepped inside of the Top 15 in the PRCA World Standings, sitting 12th with $53,114.90 in total season earnings.
“It’s more surreal than anything, I guess. I don’t even know how to explain it, if I’m being honest. It helps mentally because, when I started the year, my goal was to win the Rookie, and the (Wrangler) NFR would be a sweet cherry on top,” Hendrix said. “If I don’t make it, I set out my goal for the year and I can go into next year with confidence. It would suck not to make it, but my goal wasn’t to make it. I will be happy with my year-end if I can finish high in the standings and win the Rookie.”
Kesler and Hendrix won the Iron County Fair and PRCA Rodeo in Parowan, Utah, with a 4.1-second run, worth $1,751; won the Dillon (Montana) Jaycees PRCA Rodeo with a 4.3-second run, worth $2,508 each and split the win at the Magic Valley Stampede in Filer, Idaho, with a 4.0-second run, worth $4,345 a man.
At the Walla Walla (Washington) Frontier Days, Kesler and Hendrix split third in the second round with Jeff Flenniken and Russell Cardoza, with a 4.6-second run, worth $1,172 a man, and split fifth in the average with Rahlmann and Rich with a time of 10.0 seconds on two head, worth $1,077 a man. They won the first round at the Ellensburg (Washington) Rodeo with a 4.6-second run, worth $3,017 a man, and placed eighth in the average on two head with a time of 11.5 seconds, worth $394 a man.
“We started our week off with some good runs and then we drew two good ones in a row on top of that,” Hendrix said. “We had some confidence to where we were able to make round-winning runs, then we just caught. The Ellensburg short round didn’t go good, but it’s hard to be mad when you have a week that good. You know you can’t catch them all, as bad as you want to.”
Their large earning weekend gave the team relief after coming off a missing and penalty streak the week prior. What kicked off their success was Hendrix pulling off a drive-by heel shot in the first round at the Walla Walla Frontier Days.
“I had to make a tougher shot work and it gave me some confidence. Like, ‘Man, if I can catch them on the left side, I should be able to catch them in front of me.’”
In weeks prior, Kesler and Hendrix changed their game plan from roping fast to just catch, which has proven time and time again to work. Hendrix is also focusing on riding a sharper corner to give himself the best heel shot possible.
“If you ride a good corner, even if you don’t throw fast, you set yourself up for the second hop. I think that is important. Being a heeler, you have to be in a good spot.
“It’s hard not to get trapped on the inside of the corner when you have a guy that can head them so fast,” Hendrix continued. “It’s fighting for your down-the-arena position, even after you see the head rope go on. You really want to make sure that you get those extra strides down the pen so, when they turn, you’re not covering them up and you can see the feet. It’s easier from there. I really worked on that this last week and it paid off.”
Hendrix admits that their worst run of the week was in the short round at the Ellensburg Rodeo.
“That was the only one we missed,” he said. “Our steer stepped right hard and Quinn kind of had to let him hop down the arena. I felt like I was a little inside, so I kind of let off my swing and I got a leg and lost a leg. That just all comes down to position. If I would have held my pocket better, been around the corner, had him more out in front of me, I think I probably would have caught him.”
With 10 rodeos left to count for the PRCA World Standings, Kesler and Hendrix are currently leading the (Puyallup) Washington State Fair Pro Rodeo with a 4.4-second run, after roping in the first performance on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2021.
“I think when we had that bad week and a half, I know I was getting in my own way, mentally,” Hendrix said. “It’s so mental at this point. Everyone ropes good. It’s just who can put the runs together when it matters the most. Don’t get in our own way.”