By ARIEL COOPER
When senior Sarah Cochran exited the arena in Alfred, New York on Saturday afternoon, she was engulfed almost immediately by a sea of red jackets. In that moment, everything that the Cornell equestrian team had been working all season for came together. Cochran’s second place finish in her walk trot class — typically the last division of the day to show — was not only a huge personal achievement for her, but it also solidified the Red’s victory that day as well as its 50 point lead in the region.
“I got off the horse and I didn’t even hear them announce my name or my number or anything. … I just heard my entire team yell,” Cochran said.
Cochran, who joined the team as a sophomore with minimal riding experience, had never placed higher than fifth or sixth at a show. Because the rules indicate that team members can only ride in the walk trot division for two years regardless of how many points the rider has earned, Saturday’s show was Cochran’s last in the division.
“She went in determined and she looked really great and she got a horse that was good for her and … we were just all so happy for her,” said senior co-captain Sofia Steinberger. “It was a really nice way to go out for her.”
Head Coach Joanna Novakovic ’03 added that Cochran’s level attitude helped her succeed.
“She did everything she was supposed to do, she kept her cool, she kept it all together and that was really rewarding to see,” Novakovic said.
Although second place is not quite a victory, the red ribbon meant everything, Cochran said.
“Second is still first to me,” she said.
Saturday’s show also marked a personal triumph for senior Mary Beth Hannon, who won her novice flat class in her first show back after five months out of the saddle due to a concussion.
“Words literally cannot describe how happy I am to be back,” Hannon said. “I was so thankful that Coach took the chance on me and let me come back to the show ring so soon, so I really wanted to do my best for the team because of how supportive they’ve all been for me throughout my recovery.”
The Red had a lot thrown at it at the beginning of the season with a new coach and changes to the programs at Oxley Equestrian Center.
“I think it’s really cool that even though we’re going through a transition year to a new coach and a new barn and a new schedule we’ve still been really successful at shows and it’s just been really great to see teammates succeed and thrive,” said senior co-captain Georgiana de Rham.
While the changes seem to have contributed to the Red’s success, the biggest difference has been the camaraderie that team members have had with each other this season, according to Hannon.
“The main thing, regardless of the fact that we have a new coach, new practice format, etc., is that we’re focused, as a team, on being the best we can be through being supportive and helping push each other to do our best on a daily basis,” she said.
Saturday’s show at Alfred was the Red’s last show of the fall semester. The squad will now have a few weeks off to prepare for its home show, which will be held at the Oxley Equestrian Center on Feb. 22.
As for now, though, Steinberger was proud of her team’s accomplishments over the weekend.
“It was just a really successful day,” she said.