With the first two tournaments marked off its schedule, the Red headed out to Mary Washington last weekend to complete the Tournament of Champions show series for the first time in the team’s history. Fresh from winter break, the squad rode to a seventh place finish for the day, as well as a seventh place finish for the entire series. The Red competed against almost 40 different teams throughout all three tournaments. The teams that are invited to the tournaments are all in either first or second place in their respective regions, and they have all been to nationals at least once, according to head coach Chris Mitchell. However, the Red had a little trouble competing against such an elite field.
“Everybody rode really, really well,” said junior co-captain Emily Kowalchik. “I would say [there] were stronger rides all around than we had at Centenary College … which is really nice to see [because] we’ve only had three practices since break.”
Senior co-captain Katie Fink said she was satisfied with the team’s performance in Virgina.
“I was really pleased with how the team did and I was especially happy with everyone’s performance.”
Fink had a particularly good day at last weekend’s show. As an open level rider, Fink had the opportunity to compete in the medal class — a special competition between 36 open level riders — where she placed fourth. The Tournament of Champions medal class is a two-phased individual competition that serves as a preview for the upcoming Cacchione Cup competition that takes place during nationals, according to Fink.
Freshman Mary Beth Hannon also had a successful showing in Virginia. With the Centenary Tournament of Champions under her belt, Hannon rode to third place in the walk, trot, canter class.
“It’s really neat to see the higher level teams and compete against them,” she said of the tournaments. “It’s completely different from our regional shows for sure.”
Although these competitions are not part of the Red’s regular show season, they are a great way to keep the team in competition mode and allow them to face top level teams before nationals, according to Kowalchik.
“It puts us back in a place where we remember that there are still things we need to work on [and] we can’t get too comfortable,” she said.
“It pushes us,” Fink agreed.
Against such a strong field, the squad’s seventh place finish was no small achievement.
“This was the first time our that team has placed in the standings at a tournament … I think [during] my entire time on the team,” Kowalchik said. “So that was a really, really big deal.”
Mitchell also expressed his satisfaction with Satuday’s results.
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” he said. “[It was a] really good showing to [start] our spring semester off.”
With the final Tournament of Champions out of the way, the Red will now focus on finishing up the regular show season. The Red will host its first show of the semester — which is just over three weeks away — at Oxley Equestrian Center, so the team has a lot to prepare for. The squad will be up against all of its usual competitors, including Alfred and Nazarth who are second and third in the region respectively. Hosting a show while trying to remain undefeated will not be an easy task, according to Fink.
“Historically we don’t do as well at our home shows because we are so busy and stressed out while hosting the show,” she said.
“It takes the focus off the riding a little bit,” Kowalchik agreed.
Still, the team seems determined to succeed.
“I really want to keep our momentum up because the second we don’t win a show I think everyones spirits are going to kind of be depleted because of it,” Fink said.
Mitchell said he is confident that the squad has the ability to ride all the way to nationals.
“We’re strong enough, we’re talented enough and the girls are hungry enough,” he said.
As a special send-off, Mitchell says he always tries to have all of the seniors on the team ride in the last home show of the season. With the addition of an undefeated status to maintain, the Cornell show will be a very big day for the squad.
“I’m just very excited for the season to start and to watch this team make history and be undefeated,” Mitchell said.
Original Author: Ariel Cooper