The equestrian team galloped into the Zone II Region III championships – held this past Saturday at Skidmore – with 11 of the 66 riders at the event saddling up for the carnelian and white. While the expectations were high for what head coach Chris Mitchell described as his strongest squad in recent years, the standards were even higher, as only four of Cornell’s 11 riders qualified to advance to the Zone II championships.
“We had some high expectations going in, but it was a disappointing day,” Mitchell said. “I’m happy with the four going on [to Zones], but I think we could have gotten six or seven in.”
Cornell opened the day with its three strongest riders competing in the Open Fences division. While freshman Dana Kendrick and senior tri-captain Megan Gates struggled through tough performances, senior Trudy Gulick was spot on in her first run, and was rewarded as she was called back for a second viewing by the judges. Gulick nailed her routine again, capturing the Froehlich-Mitchell first place trophy – donated by the families of Mitchell and his wife-assistant coach, Martha Mitchell.
“It was the first time that we’ve won our trophy,” Mitchell said. “We have to get it engraved.”
The Red carried that momentum in the second event of the championship: the intermediate fences division. Sophomore Samantha Horowitz struggled after missing a change, but junior tri-captain Laura Acker turned in a performance that left Mitchell, his fellow coaches and the judges with an easy pick for the best rider in the division.
“Laura Acker just laid it down,” Mitchell said.
Horowitz was not done for the day, however, as she bounced back to place sixth in what Mitchell described as a very stringently judged intermediate flats division.
“She actually had her personal best flat ride I’ve ever seen her have,” Mitchell said. “She rode extremely well.”
Cornell faltered in the next few events. Junior Liz Kozakiewicz, a heavy favorite coming into the novice fences, couldn’t find her rhythm on her horse – finishing in eighth place.
“Liz got a horse that was tough to find a rhythm on, and when you’re jumping, rhythm’s a lot of it,” Mitchell said.
Kozakiewicz’s struggles, however, did help senior Lydia Shute get a feel for the horse she would be riding in the event. Having scouted her ride, Shute turned in a fast and smooth performance after hitting all eight of her jumps, thus qualifying for Zones with a third place finish in novice fences.
“She was fast but she was in the rhythm of the horse,” Mitchell said.
Kendrick, Gates, and Gulick were back in action again during the open flats division, but none of Cornell’s riders turned in a strong enough performance to earn a ticket to Zones.
Kozakiewicz also returned back to competition for the novice flats, just missing a trip to Zones with a fourth place finish.
Cornell’s sophomore trio of Kendall Banks, Christine Garvey, and Kaitlin Stanymeyer came into regionals with the hopes of sweeping the top-3 qualifying spots for Zones. Instead, only Banks finished in the ribbons, placing seventh.
Freshman Caitlin Caroll was the last Red rider to punch a ticket to Zones, finishing third in a field of five in the walk-trot division.
“It wasn’t a great style ride, but [Caroll] went out there and did her job, didn’t make any mistakes and did enough to get through to the next round,” Mitchell said.
Also heading to Zones will be Kendrick – the Reserve Cacchione Cup Rider for the region – who despite not qualifying individually for a chance to advance to nationals, will head the Centenary College next weekend to compete for a chance to be the Cacchione Rider for Zone II.
Although somewhat disappointed after regionals, Mitchell is excited for his riders chances at Zones.
“I think Trudy and Laura both have excellent chances of moving on. Caitlin Caroll has to really put in a good week of practice and get her mind set, but there’s no reason why she can’t do it,” Mitchell said. “Lydia’s my quiet one. Lydia wants it and she’s got a realistic shot of getting in [to nationals].”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Assistant Sports Editor