Cornell equestrian placed seventh overall in its first ever appearance at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals in Louisville this weekend.
Throughout the season, head coach Joanne Novakovic ’03 guided her team to several top ten individual results to cap off the best season in the program’s 21-year history.
According to Novakovic, Cornell has been very close to making nationals before, but the Red competes in a very tough region, which has barred success in recent years. She is very happy with how her team did, especially considering it was their first time together on such a big stage.
“I think we had a really solid performance,” she said. “We had riders in the top ten for five out of the eight chases.”
Novakovic praised sophomore Caroline Boozer for her performance and second place finish in the Collegiate Walk Trot.
“It was really awesome,” Boozer said of going to Louisville and taking second. “We all did really well.”
Senior Meridith Meyer feels reaching Nationals and performing strongly is a testament to what goes on behind the scenes during practice and a general team effort.
“It speaks to the program and all the hard work that the team has put in,” she said. “Just being able to compete with those athletes was an incredible opportunity.”
Meyer, who earned honorable mention in Open Flat, felt that the entire team excelled. She was especially impressed with the way the first-time riders handled the pressure that is inherent at an event of such magnitude. “Everyone stepped up in their own way,” she said.
Boozer pointed out that Cornell had an opportunity to compete with athletes and teams from across the country that they do not usually encounter. She also enjoyed being around the Western National Championships, which was going on at the same time.
“It was really neat,” Boozer said. “There were all these teams from all over the country.”
For Meyer and the other six seniors, Louisville was the end of the road in their collegiate equestrian careers.
“It was emotional for them,” Novakovic said. “It was a good way for them to go out.”
Team members say they will miss the leadership and companionship of the graduating seniors.
“They are all amazing riders and amazing people,” Boozer said. “We will miss them a lot.”
Meyer was emotional when reflecting on her time in the program and will keep with her all the lessons she has learned through her time at Cornell.
“I gave the program everything I had to give and the program [gave me back a lot in return],” Meyer said.
Novakovic said she is excited for what the future holds for a team that has now has experience at a more competitive level. She feels that her own ability to assemble a championship-caliber team with experience gained by returning riders will only help the Red’s chances going forward.
“I think we have a better sense of exactly what it takes,” she said. “I definitely think we can repeat this. Every year, we are going to have a chance to make it there.”
Boozer is as optimistic as her coach about what a landmark 2015-16 season means for the future of the program. The confidence level of the team this year will prove to be an asset going forwards.
“We proved ourselves this year,” she said. “We are going to keep moving up the ranks.”