With the regular season having come to a close, the Cornell women’s equestrian team spent last Saturday riding in the Zone Championships competing alongside Skidmore College, St. Lawrence, Seton Hill University and Long Island University Post. The women put up a solid performance throughout the day, but closed out the tournament in third place, falling just shy of a Nationals qualification.
Skidmore College and St. Lawrence punched tickets to the Nationals with first and second place finishes with respective scores of 45 and 42 points. The Red finished in the middle of the pack with 33 points, followed by Seton Hill and LIU Post with 25 and 23 points, respectively.
“[From] year to year, it falls into place like that, where you see Skidmore and St. Lawrence being really strong usually going back and forth [between] one and two,” said senior and co-captain Victoria Whitworth. “I think when we’re really strong, we’re definitely [competitive] but we had some little inconsistencies throughout the day and some little mistakes that really just kept us out of the ribbons.”
While the Red was unable to qualify for Nationals, the team put up some impressive individual performances. Sophomore Laura Vasquez-Bolanos placed first in the Walk Trot event, senior Amanda Ko placed first in the Open Flat. Senior Claira Seely also placed first in the Intermediate Flat, qualifying her for Nationals as an individual rider.
“We have a particularly competitive zone,” Vasquez-Bolanos said. “It’s always like we’re on this thing of it depends on who has a better day. Sometimes the horses, and just the rides you have, aren’t what you expected them to be and it ended up being a disappointing day, but we all rode to the best of our ability.”
Outside of the three qualifying riders, several other events showed high Cornell finishes. Senior co-captain Chelsea Huss placed first in the Open Fences event, freshman Kate Wagner placed second in the Walk Trot Canter and sophomore Madeline Kinnear placed second in Walk Trot.
However, Cornell placed lower than expected in several other events.
“We won three of the hardest classes [in Open Fences, Open Flat and Intermediate Flat] … and those are ones that we often don’t win,” said head coach Joanna Novakovic. “We didn’t do as well in some of the classes that we often do win, and some of that was due to the horse, rider pairings [and] a couple of mental mistakes by some of our riders, so it was a little bit disappointing for everyone.”
These inconsistencies were exemplified by fifth place finishes in Novice Fences and Novice Flat by junior Jenna Beobide, fifth place finish in Intermediate Fences for sophomore Vaughn Shanley and fifth place finish in Open Flat for Whitworth.
Notably, the weekend’s tournament notably represented the Zones Championships for the team’s senior class.
“It’s a little bit nostalgic, but at the same time, we’ve been here before, so I think I was less nervous,” Whitworth said. “This year it just kind of felt like I had a big support system behind me [and] I definitely wanted it bad. [It] was a little disappointing at the end of the day when I wasn’t able to get there, but I’m still looking forward to Ivies in two weeks and that being the best show of my career.”
As the last tournament of the season, the Ivies will hold even more meaning with the riders given the fact that it will be held on home turf.
“I’m excited that we get to host it [and] I think it’ll definitely be an advantage to be at home and have our horses,” Novakovi said. “It’s really nice because everybody gets to ride there, and it’s nice to just see everyone kind of at the end of the year, doing their best in sort of the final culmination of the year for most of the people. I’m looking forward to it and I think everybody else is going to do really well.”
The Ivies will be held at the Oxley Equestrian Center on Sunday, April 23, and Nationals will be held from May 4 to May 6 in Lexington, Ky.