March 13, 2012

EQUESTRIAN | Squad Eagerly Heads Into Postseason Competition

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Although the regular showing season may be over, the equestrian team still has plenty to look forward to in its final competitions. As regional champion, the Red will definitely send a team to the Zones competition held at Skidmore in April. However, this weekend’s regional show will provide 10 of Cornell’s riders the opportunity to individually advance to Zones. After a season of competing together as a team, the riders will need to adjust to competing on their own. At regionals, it is every rider for herself.

“For the first time all year … some of us are going to be competing against our own teammates, which is really hard when we’ve been accustomed to always rooting for each other,” said junior co-captain Emily Kowalchik.

Kowalchik will be competing at regionals in the novice flat division and is one of the four Cornell riders who has already experienced competing at regionals. For the other six riders, Saturday’s show will be a new experience.

In order to qualify for regionals, a rider must accumulate a certain number of points over the course of the season. Unless one is in the open division, the points carry over from season to season, according to senior Melissa Kenny. For many riders, qualifying for regionals takes multiple seasons.

“Some of these girls have been waiting for three or four years to qualify … so that makes it even more exciting and nerve- wracking for them,” Kowalchik said.

Even though Kenny is a senior, this will be her first time competing at regionals.

“I’m really pumped to finally qualify,” she said.  “It’s taken me a long time and I’ve put a lot of work into this team — I’ve been on it all four years.”

Kenny qualified for both the novice flat and novice fences divisions. With 16 or 17 riders in both divisions, the competition will be tough. In addition, Kenny will be up against teammates Kowalchik and senior Caroline Rusk in novice flat. Unfortunately, only two of the riders will be able to advance to Zones.

“I think the most we have in any class is three … which will be really hard and sad because there [are] only two spots, so all three people from our team can’t move on in that division,” Kowachik said.

The top two riders in each division will move on to compete at Zones. From there, the top two riders in each division will receive a bid to nationals, according to Kowalchik.

Still, Kenny is looking forward to the heightened caliber of the competition.

“I’m looking forward to it being a little tougher competition and seeing some of the best girls in the division and being able to compete against them,” she said.

Sophomore Grace Bradshaw will also be competing in regionals for the first time this year. Unlike Kenny, she is the only rider from the Red to qualify for her division.

“It’s nice to not have the added pressure of having to beat someone that you’re friends with,” she said.

Although Bradshaw would have been able to qualify for regionals as a freshman, head coach Chris Mitchell felt that it would be better for her to qualify as a sophomore, so she would have more experience, Bradshaw said. The only freshman riding in regionals this year is Georgiana de Rham, who qualified for intermediate fences.

“I’m really excited that I did make it this year,” Bradshaw said.

As the first post-season show and the only one that is a purely individual competition, regionals promises to be both physically and emotionally intense for all.

“It’s a really hard day for us — it always is because some people are really happy, some people are really sad, [for] some of the seniors this is the last time that they’ll show … ever, so that’s really really hard on them if they don’t qualify [for Zones],” Kowalchik said. “It’s always a really kind of draining weekend emotionally.”

To add to the stress of competing in regionals, the Red will also be hosting the show. However, with only 10 riders competing, the show should be much easier to run than the squad’s regular season shows, according to Kowalchik. The fact that the show is also right before spring break should also help. This will be the second time that Cornell has hosted regionals, according to senior co-captain Katie Fink.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to make it to regionals, so I’m so proud of our team for working so hard throughout the season to make it this far,” she said.

During the show, Cornell will be formally recognized as the regional champions. With a nearly undefeated season, the squad came very far this year. However, it is not over yet. All of the riders who will be showing on Saturday are the best in the region, so the competition will be tough.

“Everybody [who is] actually riding is really nervous because you know how hard it is to get to the next step … being in the top two is not going to be easy,” Kowalchik said.

“This is the time in our season where we should be at the top of our game and so is everyone else,” added Fink. “It’s [going to] be a challenge, but I think we’re ready for it.”

Original Author: Ariel Cooper