A little over two weeks ago, the Red accumulated enough points to participate in the Regional Championship, sending the team to Alfred University last weekend. A total of 11 riders competed on Sunday to both represent Cornell and send individual riders to their next and last tournament for the season: Zones.
“I’m a senior. I’ve been there every year and sometimes the atmosphere can be really tense,” said senior Amanda Ko. “[I]t is an individual competition, as opposed to the rest of the season where it’s very team-oriented, so I think everyone had a really good head on their shoulders and was just really supportive of each other.”
Competing alongside Ko for their last showing at Regionals were eight other seniors: Shana Coffey, Lauren Jaquay, Marissa Rice, Carlee Roberts, Gabrielle Rutkauskas, Claira Seely and co-captains Chelsea Huss and Victoria Whitworth. Junior Erica Alfiero, as well as sophomore Emma Mayer, junior Molly O’Shea, sophomore Emily Selland, junior Tamara Thompson and sophomore Laura Vasquez-Bolanos, also rode for the team.
“I think everyone went into it with pretty high spirits,” Alfiero said. “I think everyone was very much focused and very ‘eyes on the prize.”
The Red managed to snag as much of the “prize” as they could, ending up with four individual riders qualifying for the Zone 2 Championships happening in early April: Whitworth as the Reserve Champion in open flat, Rice as the Reserve Champion in Intermediate flat, Vasquez-Bolanos as the reserve champion in walk trot and Seely with two qualifying finishes. Seely claimed first in both the intermediate fences title and novice flat final.
“I’d say that it wasn’t entirely a consistent day,” said head coach Joanna Novakovic ’03. “I would say that some of the people who I expected to do very well did very well, but there were definitely some mistakes made, mostly mental mistakes. For a lot of people, they had trouble with the added pressure of it being their final time at Regionals or just it just being a final in general.”
Despite some riders not continuing their season, the Red is satisfied with the results at Regionals.
“Even though I’m not moving onto Zones, I think I did the best I could in the situation and I’m very happy with my own individual results,” Alfiero said, who finished sixth in novice fences. “Obviously a lot of people are in that same position where individually they aren’t moving on, but we’re overjoyed for everyone that is, and I think overall they put in a very strong performance and, once again, it’s clear why we’re number one in the region.”
Only the riders who place in first or second in their event advance as individuals to Zones, and seven out of the 11 Cornell riders missed their chance by a hair.
Coffey placed fifth in the intermediate fences event, while Ko and Coffey finished in third and fourth in open flat. Roberts, Ko and O’Shea finished in their events in the fifth through eighth block in the open fences event. For intermediate flat, O’Shea and Roberts finished in third and seventh, respectively. Open fences saw Roberts, Ko and O’Shea finishing the fifth through eighth block of spots, with Huss narrowly missing qualifying for Zones with a third place finish.
“I don’t want to say [it was] relieving, but it was just a nice close to a really good four years,” Huss said. “I think I learned that being on the team kind of has encompassed more than just the competition part. The experiences and lessons that I’ve learned separately [from competitions] have been … more important and more memorable for me.”
Despite the fact that the majority of Cornell’s riders are not riding for themselves in Zones, the Red is competing as a team due to its standing as number one in the region. With less than a month until Zones, the team is steadying themselves for one of their last tournaments of the season.
“I think what we’ve been really trying to think of ways to improve on is our team morale,” Ko said, who will be riding as the open flat rider for the team. “[We have to make] sure as we go into Zones [that] we are working as a team and completely have each other’s backs.”
Cornell will be going to Skidmore College on April 8 for Zones, where the team can potentially qualify individual riders for the National Show later this season.