The Cornell Equestrian team is feeling that infamous pressure we Ivy leaguers are known for as they muster through the biggest three weeks of their season. Between Regional Championships last weekend, Zones this weekend and Ivy Championships after that, one can’t help but question the human ability to compete at such an intensive level — all during prelim week. The Red has shown constant confidence and unmatched focus as its season comes to a climactic close. The Red is seeking to maintain these levels this weekend at Zones, which will be held at Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J. Last weekend, 10 Cornell riders went to the Regional Championships. There the Red comprised 10 of 350 riders total in the region. After a day of intense competition at Skidmore’s Equestrian Center, that ratio has been narrowed down even further going into Zones since Cornell will only be sending three of its riders — one veteran and two first-timers. Junior Kelsey Craig qualified as reserve champion in intermediate flat and sophomore Katie Fink qualified as reserve champion in novice fences. Teammate Charmaine Tan qualified with her third place finish in walk trot canter. Despite what a quick glance at results might reveal, the seven other Cornellians rode extremely well at Regionals last weekend, too. Only the top three spots in each division advance to Zones. Seniors Brooke Cagwin and Nicole Finazzo rode to fifth and eighth places, respectively, in open fences. In novice fences, sophomores Caroline Rusk and Justine Gentillini came in behind classmate Fink, who was reserve champion in the event and will travel to Zones. Rusk took home fifth and Gentillini did not earn a ribbon. Senior Zoe Samuel rode in the intermediate flat while juniors Morgan Broccoli and Lizzie Briggs rode well in walk trot canter but did not advance to the next round. Head coach Chris Mitchell said he was not surprised that these three girls are moving on.“I was a little disappointed that some other girls didn’t get through. I thought some more of our girls should have advanced. Every single one of them is disappointed that they didn’t make it through, but they are all happy for the three that did. It was an emotional day,” he said. Craig has been to Regionals every year, but this will be her first time at Zones. It will also be Tan’s first chance. Fink has already been to Zones, but that occurred when she attended Hobart-William Smith. Even though this is a relatively new experience for all three riders, Mitchell said that they are coping well with the pressure of the upcoming competition. “They are confident,” Mitchell said. “They’re not quite as confident as I want them to be, but we have a few more days of preparation.” In order to advance to Nationals, each rider must finish in the top three in her division at Zones on Saturday. Mitchell said that it is definitely a possibility for all three Cornellians to move on, although it will be extremely difficult, especially for Charmaine Tan because the walk trot canter division is very hard to judge. “Her division is very tough,” Mitchell said. “Also, she is such a young rider as far as riding goes, compared to Kelsey [Craig] and Katie [Fink] who are more seasoned riders. But all three have been very, very focused in practice.” Even though Fink is the veteran rider in this competition, she too said she was somewhat nervous. “I’m feeling very excited and nervous at the same time,” Fink said. “It does help having been here before because I know the location and I know how it’ll play out, but I’m still definitely feeling the pressure.” After this weekend’s competition, the team will be preparing for the Ivy Championships at Dartmouth College on Saturday April 17th, which will be followed by Nationals if any of Cornell’s riders qualify, which both Mitchell and Fink believe to be a distinct possibility. “That’s a goal were all working towards, and it just might be tangible,” Fink said.
Original Author: Katie Schubauer