In every sport, there is that one day, that one moment where the all the preparation, all the work is boiled down to a single moment that can define a season. This past weekend, the equestrian team took a large step towards defining its season, taking on a deep, tough field of competition at the Regional championships at Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., riding for the right to compete in Zones. After the dust had settled, senior tri-captain Laura Acker, senior Erika Oziemina and sophomore Amanda Brenske had all earned the rights to mount their horses next week at Skidmore in Canton, N.Y.
“You work all year to get to this point,” said head coach Chris Mitchell. “Then it comes down to one day to ride. … Regionals is a very emotional day for players and coaches. You want everyone to make it, but you know everyone can’t.”
With the top-3 riders moving on in each competition, most of the events featured 10 or more riders, with between two and four of those riders being Cornell, meaning the Red competitors not only had to beat out a myriad of opponents but also some of their own teammates.
“It’s a tough day because you work so hard and then don’t always get that call back,” Mitchell said. “Then in 10 minutes you have to go support your teammates for something you just didn’t get selected for. Our girls did a great job of that.”
Acker, Oziemina and Brenske were all the recipients of that support as the riders were all getting called back by the judges more than usual.
“They [the judges] have a tendency to test a little bit more,” Mitchell said. “The girls will do a jump course and then maybe the top four, five, or six will get called back to jump a shortened course, maybe without their irons. They [the judges] even had them do a figure eight this past weekend just to see how they rode their horses before they even jumped.”
Oziemina competed in the walk trotter category, which featured five competitors, three from Cornell. Oziemina came out at the Regional 3 Walk Trot champion, a success Mitchell attributed to her focus and competitive spirit.
“She’s been working so hard,” he said. “She’s a great competitor. She knew what she wanted and what she needed to do. She just nailed it.”
Acker experienced similar success in the intermediate flat category. She topped the deepest field of the day with 16 competitors facing off. Helped by a horse that clicked with Acker, she took home the Region 3 reserve championship.
“She really steps up for the big horse shows,” Mitchell said. “She was not able to ride much over Spring Break, but came back strong this past week. Sometimes the horse helps you and she was really excited about this horse. It was a nice draw for her.”
Rounding out the Red competitors who placed to move on to zones, Brenske took third behind Oziemina in the walk trotter category. According to Mitchell, Brenske was aided by some extra practice over Spring Break.
“For her [her success] was just mostly riding more,” Mitchell said. “She doesn’t get a chance to get out and ride extra times because of her class schedule. She was here over Spring break and that really helped her out.”
The team also had many riders place just out of the top three, with a lot of fourth and fifth place finishers. The best example of this was walk trot canter where the Red entered four riders, its most for any event. The large group paid off, placing three of those four riders, although none in the top-3. Senior Caitlin Kontak placed fourth, while fellow classmates Annette Lalic and Ally Chan were fifth and seventh.
“It’s [walk trot] always been one of our strongest events,” Mitchell said. “We had four out of the 14 riders [in the category] so if we didn’t place we would have been in trouble. Not to take anything away from our girls, they all rode very well, but we said we should place at least three of them, and we did.”
Mitchell pointed to the fact that even though most Red competitors will not move on the Zones, the season is not over.
“The one saving grace is that we’re not done,” he said. “A lost of schools are, but we have the Ivy championships. We want to win that. … We want the cup back.”