National Rodeo Interview: Brittany Dias
A freshman from Hanford, Brittany Dias earned reserve champion honors in women’s breakaway roping at the 2016 College National Finals Rodeo & led Fresno State to its highest-ever team placing (10th). She was also named the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Women’s Rookie of the Year for the overall and breakaway categories and received a $2,250 scholarship.
She entered the national final ranked 11th nationally in the team season point standings, and was selected as the West Region Rookie of the Year after she ranked first in breakaway roping, third in the all-around category and seventh in goat-tying regional standings.
Q: Being a freshman and first time at nationals, how was your state of mind entering
BD: “I’ve been to high school and junior high school nationals four times before, but wasn’t as prepared in the past. Those experiences and Coach (Tony) Branquinho taught me it’s not about winning or losing, but having a positive image of yourself. This was the first time that I’ve had success there, so it means a lot. I needed to have that failure to overcome it.”
Q: For those of us like me who haven’t been to nationals, take us through your week there.
BD: “During the practice jackpot, all the calves were run through which gave the contestants a chance to take notes on them. When we drew a certain calf later, we would look at our notes to give us a strategy. It’s important to get a good start, but if you go through a barrier too early in relation to the calf, you get a 10-second penalty which is really costly. My first run was 2.6 seconds so that set me up well, and I was seventh at that point. The next round I was 2.5 seconds so that put me first, but on the third run the calf got out a little and went right which slowed me down so that was 4.1 seconds. Going into the short round I was in fourth place overall so I knew I had to have a good run to try and win it. I got out well, took a quick shot, and the 2.4 time put me second in the round and overall for average.”
Q: How great was it for you to be able to compete with your team at nationals?
BD: “Being a student at Fresno State and on their rodeo team is special. I’ve never had a team to compete with before so it’s been so great. I’ve always practiced with my parents and by myself, so it’s nice to have teammates there to push you and still be supportive. Tegan (Turner) and Cynthia (Konda) made signs in the stands for the short round that gave me a couple tears as I came in the grand entrance. I’ve rodeo’ed with Tegan since junior high. Since she’s three years older, I’ve always wanted to be like her. Being able to travel and talk with her throughout our trip really helped me get in the right mindset. I still really look up to her.”
Q: How is your coach Tony Branquinho to work with?
BD: “Tony is a great coach, especially compared to some coaches who aren’t always as positive. He’s always looking ahead and doesn’t dwell on what just happened. His saying is ‘Score sharp, rope sharp’ which means get out of that barrier well, and then rope strong. Before each run, he always gives me a knuckles and tells me to go have fun. He tries to put things into perspective - we’re there to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Positivity is really important. I’ve always been positive, but was always worried about winning and losing that I fought myself. I’ve realized it’s not all about that. Give all the glory to God if I win or lose, and shine his light as much as I can. That was my attitude going into it, and he encouraged that.”
Q: Were there any memorable parts of the competition?
BD: “I remember when my teammate Colton (Campbell) was in the chute next to me pushing my calf. He gave me a little pep talk and reminded me what his dad says that you only have one chance to be a national champion. Those were the last words that I heard going into the box, and I was really encouraged and felt really special. That camaraderie is really important since our men’s and women’s teams practice together. The boys always help us with our practice and vice versa, so it was nice having him there at that moment.”
Q: How was the atmosphere in the arena?
BD: “On Monday and Tuesday for the slack performances it wasn’t as full, but there were pretty big crowds for the third rounds Wednesday through Friday. The short round for Saturday was packed. I’m used to big crowds so that didn’t get to me, but it was still exciting coming through the grand entry.”
Q: Any family or friends there to support you?
BD: “My parents got there right after we arrived, and that was a true blessing to have them there since they haven’t missed an event. My mom is a horse trainer, and my dad also competes in team roping with her and gives lessons – so have we learned a lot together over the years.”
Q: I’ve heard the atmosphere at the event is really fun outside the ring, too – any memorable experiences?
BD: “There’s a lot of down time so there’s a chance to bond with teammates and others, and we had some nice dinners. My friends and I went swing dancing, and it was fun to do that with others from around the country. The trip there was also fun since Tegan, Cynthia (Konda, a teammate) and I drove there together. We had four horses and three dogs, and Tegan had her goat to practice with. We ended up staying at a friend of Cynthia’s one night while she was barrel racing. On the way back, we stopped near Reno to drop Cynthia off then came straight home. There was a lot of singing to the radio and some dancing.”
Q: What do you have planned this summer?
BD: “I’ll enter some California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association events, and there are some team jackpots later this summer. I’ll also work as a wrangler near Fish Camp (near Yosemite) and give rodeo lessons to junior high girls. There’s always a rodeo going on somewhere so I don’t want to take time off so I can stay up on my game.”