By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
She admits it was a nerve-wracking way to do it, but Portales native Brittany Hofstetter has made it to the National Finals Rodeo in barrel racing set for next month in Las Vegas, Nev.
Hofstetter found out Sunday at the Texas Stampede Rodeo in Dallas, where she was forced into the role of spectator, that she would be going to the NFR.
Because she was balancing college at Texas Tech and her wedding last spring, she hadn’t been able to qualify for all of the events she would have liked to, including that last rodeo before the National Finals.
She was sitting in 14th place going into the weekend with the top 15 going to the NFR. She knew two cowgirls, Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla., and Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz., had a chance to pass her in Dallas.
“I had to wait five weeks after the season to find out if I would qualify,” Hofstetter said. “My whole year came down to what happened there and I couldn’t even get out there and defend myself — I just had to sit there and watch.”
Both Poppino and Cervi finished out of the money, leaving Hofstetter in 14th place with total winnings of $53,456.
Hofstetter, a 4.0 student at Texas Tech, made the College National Finals as a junior but had a disappointing performance there. She was married in May and enrolled in summer school at Texas Tech. Her husband and family could tell she had become pretty stressed after the rigors of college, wedding and rodeo so they urged her to take the summer off.
Hofstetter said her husband Jerrad, who is a roper, convinced her to drop classes and go to some pro rodeos the week of Independence Day. She found her horse Paco was hot and ready to run and the two won $15,000 during that road trip.
The winnings piled up over the summer and Hofstetter made the decision to take online courses during the fall semester and pursue rodeo more actively.
“Whenever you have a horse you can make the National Finals on you keep going,” Hofstetter said. “I just have to seize this opportunity.”
Her parents, Charles and Beverly Bennett, said they were a little hesitant about their daughter dropping school but knew how hard she had been working and wanted her to take the summer off and rodeo.
Hofstetter’s mother says she believes her daughter is the first person from Portales to ever make it to the NFR.
“I’m just so excited,” Beverly Bennett said. “We just never dreamed this would happen this year. We kinda understood her not going back to school. We understand that the horse is going to get older and she needed to take advantage of him while he’s still such a good athlete.”
Hofstetter said she’s always had the dream of NFR in the back of her mind but never really let it out.
“It always enters your mind and you say, ‘that would be so neat,’” Hofstetter said. “It didn’t really ever hit me until this year though.”
The televised NFR begins Dec. 6 and runs for 10 nights.