September 20, 2011

EQUESTRIAN | Captains Look to Repeat Last Year’s Triumphs

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Last season, the Cornell equestrian team made history. For the first time ever the squad took the gold at regionals. With the first show of the new season only a few days away, the Red is getting ready to take the riding ring by storm.

Saturday’s show at Otterbein will include a wide range of teams from across the country — most of which Cornell will not face again until nationals, according to junior co-captain Emily Kowalchik. This will allow the Red to size up its competition before all of the squads begin competing in their own regions.

A defining moment in last year’s season was the restructuring of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s zones and regions. All of the colleges in the IHSA are divided into zones and then into regions. The competition season consists of primarily regional competitions which culminate with a zone competition and eventually a national competition. Cornell also participates in an all-Ivy show towards the end of the season. The restructuring left the Red still competing against Binghamton and Ithaca, but also brought some new challenges, such as Alfred. Despite the changes, the team was able to put its best hoof forward and establish itself as a top competitor. Comfortable in its new region, expectations for the coming season remain as high as ever.

“We were really strong in our region last year, so we’re shaping up to look to do the same thing this year, which would give us the opportunity to go to nationals for the first time as a team,” said Kowalchik.

“Our goal is to win regionals again,” added senior co-captain Katie Fink.

After the Otterbein show, the Red will compete in six shows over a span of four weeks. Two of these shows will be held at Cornell’s Oxley Equestrian Center. Competing in a sport where the most important piece of equipment is a 1,500-pound animal is no easy task. The team has five horses for which it is fully responsible, both during practice and Cornell’s home shows — which are organized and run by the squad alone. This does not seem to faze the group.

“We’re a very well-oiled machine,” Kowalchik said. “At practice, at our shows, everyone is very committed and that’s why it works.”

Head coach Chris Mitchell is equally proud of his team’s motivation.

“So far they’re doing phenomenally,” he said. “[They are] all pitching in and doing their work.”

Kowalchik, Fink and Mitchell are all incredibly excited about this year’s lineup and are pleased with the results of the team’s tryouts, which took place about a week and a half ago.

“This is one of the strongest rookie classes that we’ve been able to find from tryouts in the time we’ve been on the team,” Kowalchik commented.

“I think this team is actually stronger than it was last year,” Mitchell added.

Freshman Renee Botelho is just as thrilled to be a part of the squad.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” she said. “The girls on the team are all really supportive … All the veterans are really great at helping out the rookies and making it a smooth process.”

With the season on the horizon, the Red is working hard and looking forward to getting back in the saddle for what it hopes be another strong season.

“We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Mitchell said.

Original Author: Ariel Cooper