For the past several seasons, the equestrian team has been one of the best in the region. However, one team — Skidmore — has consistently stood in Cornell’s path to the regional championship. The Red, though, is confident that this may be the year in which it finally reaches the top of the pedestal and knocks off the arch-nemesis Thoroughbreds. With an experienced and talented group of riders, the goal may become a reality.
“I think we stack relatively evenly,” head coach Chris Mitchell said of the two teams. “My Open riders, I believe, are just as good as their Open riders. But we only get to pick one rider in each class for our points for the day. We really don’t go head to head like a basketball team or a football team would. It’s not one on one. We’re competing against nine other schools. Our thought process is to win every class that we’re in. That’s absolutely what we’re going for.
“I think we’re pretty even,” Mitchell continued. “I think we may have one or two people that are a little weaker than their counterparts in Skidmore right now.”
For the seniors on the team, this season will be their last chance to win the region. And according to Mitchell, they have been instrumental in focusing the underclassmen on the task at hand.
“The team’s expectations are to win the regional championship. Some of the girls, [senior tri-captain] Julie Canter, [senior tri-captain] Kate Cornell, and I have been here,” Mitchell said.
“We’ve talked about it year after year. We’re close every year, we’re close every year,” he continued. “The girls want their shot. This is their last shot. They’re doing everything they can, they’re psyching the team, and they’re getting everybody ready. Everybody’s pumped up to go and do that.”
Canter, who has been named the region’s reserve high-point champion the past two seasons, will lead a strong group in the Open division. During her sophomore and junior years, she has been a participant as an individual at both the regional and zone championships.
“Julie Canter in the Open division has been riding better year after year,” Mitchell complimented. “It doesn’t always show in her placings, but she’s gotten to be a much smarter, much softer rider.”
Also riding in the Open division are Cornell, junior tri-captain Jeannette Pettit, seniors Megan Dines and Jesse Nehring, sophomore Kate Jackson, and three freshmen — Angela Barclay, Asta Torkovei, and Lauren Young.
Junior Alaina Hoffman, who placed third as last year’s Ivy Invitational, will be the Red’s most experienced rider in the Intermediate division. Meanwhile, sophomores Kate Reynolds and Erica Rosen, along with freshmen Megan Gates and Alexandra Hurd, will also compete in that class.
Four Cornell riders will compete in the Novice division, including junior Eva Conant, sophomore Gillian Pech, and freshmen Mary Slocum and Cheryl Horton.
The squad will also have a plethora of riders in the Walk-Trot, Walk-Trot-Canter, and Beginning Walk-Trot-Canter divisions.
However, the team has been hurt by the new seven-week rule in the Ivy League, which mandates that teams take seven weeks off from practice. This restriction has especially hurt the equestrian team, which competes the entire year. Furthermore, as opposed to other sports in which athletes practice on a daily basis, the riders practice just two to three times per week.
“It affects us tremendously,” Mitchell said unequivocally. “We’re usually going by the third week of September. We lost a full month of practice time that other schools had. For the Regional title, it hurts us.”
While Cornell was held back by the rules, none of its counterparts in the region faced such challenges. Yet, with one of the best rosters ever assembled on the East Hill, the Red will be a force at the regional championships.
“We added a tremendous amount of talent in certain divisions,” Mitchell said. “We need to get a little stronger in others, but across the board, we have a pretty good, deep team.”
Archived article by Alex Ip