Georgia claimed the third national Equestrian team title in school history when the Bulldogs took first place in the overall standings at the Varsity National Championships in Waco, Texas.
The Bulldog riders claimed their first national crown since 2004 without finishing first in either riding discipline, Hunt Seat or Western. Georgia's Western squad narrowly missed a victory when it dropped a tie-breaker to Texas Christian on Saturday. The two teams had ridden to a 4-4 draw before the Horned Frogs outpointed Georgia in the sum of raw scores, 1027-1026.
Georgia had dropped a close decision to Texas A&M on Friday night in the Hunt Seat competition, settling for third place. Auburn defeated the Aggies in the Hunt Seat championship round on Saturday.
Still, Georgia's strong finish in both disciplines allowed the Bulldogs to claim a team title with surprising ease. Their total of 49 points surpassed runner-up Texas A&M, which totaled 38, and third-place Auburn's 36 points.
"It's an incredible feeling to come out on top in such a tough, tough competition," said Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig, who has guided the Georgia program since its beginning in 2002. "The whole weekend was a roller-coaster emotionally. That we lost such close competitions in both Hunt Seat and Western almost took away a little of the luster from the team championship. But we are just ecstatic to be bringing the title back to Georgia."
Locker Wins Individual National Title A new feature of the VENC meet were the competitions for individual titles in the four riding events. Georgia sophomore Sarah Locker claimed the title in Western Reining. Teammates Haylie Jayne in Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat and Laura Upton in Western Horsemanship won Reserve status as runners-up in their competitions.
Georgia Secures Four-Peat at Southern EQ Championships The Georgia Equestrian team claimed its fourth straight title at the Southern Equestrian Championships here Saturday, but it surely didn't come easily.
The top-seeded Bulldogs defeated No. 2 seed South Carolina, the defending national champions, avenging an 11-7 loss here last November. However, it took a tie-breaker, and the repeated re-counting thereof, to determine the champion.
After all four events, both Georgia and Carolina had totaled 10 points. Georgia claimed a 6-4 victory in the Hunt Seat competition, and the Gamecocks won the Western half by an identical score. The tie-breaker was determined by dropping each team's low score in both Hunt Seat and Western, and then adding the scores from the remaining 18 rides.
Scoring 695 in Hunt Seat and 636.5 in Western, Georgia's total of 1331.5 outlasted Carolina by a mere 1.5 points.
"We are thrilled to have won such a tight, close competition. It was a real nailbiter," Georgia coach Meghan Boenig said. "It was extremely gratifying to come here, where we struggled last fall, and win the way we did. They rode well. We rode well. It was like watching a national championship-caliber competition."
The Bulldogs took 3-2 victories in both Hunt Seat events. Sophomore Haylie Jayne was the team's only double winner on the day, taking a 2-point decision in Equitation and later winning a 4-pointer in the Fences competition. Other English winners for Georgia included Daisy Whelan and Kelly Bonau in Equitation and Kelley Cowperthwait and Kitt Ritter in Fences.
Western winners for Georgia were Kelley Mundrick and Laura Upton in Horsemanship, along with Kate Stewart and Sarah Locker in Reining. Though she didn't win her individual ride, freshman reiner Diandra St. Hilaire was Georgia's lone MVP ride for the day.
Georgia Well-Represented in First-Ever EQ National Rankings In this ever-growing collegiate sport, there will be many "firsts" during the early stages of its existence. One of those took place late in the 2008 season: the first-ever national team & individual rankings for Equestrian.
The Georgia riders figured prominently in those first rankings of the season, released March 25 by the coaches nationwide that govern the sport.
Georgia's Hunt Seat squad was ranked third nationally and the Bulldogs' Western riders were ranked second. Because both squads were among the top four teams in their disciplines, they received first-round byes at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships in April.
In addition, Georgia sophomores Haylie Jayne and Sarah Locker earned No. 1 rankings in their respective events. Jayne, an Elgin, Ill., native, was the nation's top-rated rider in English Equitation on the Flat, while Locker, from Fayetteville, Tenn., was ranked first in Western Reining.
"We're pleased with the rankings and they show just how talented and versatile our team is this season," said Georgia coach Meghan Boenig. "The rankings are good to have. It's the highest our Western team has ever been ranked. I think the rankings will help make our girls hungrier as we get into post-season competition."
Four individuals were ranked in each of the four events of varsity equestrian, as well as three alternates. In addition to Jayne and Locker, Laura Upton earned the No. 4 ranking in Western Horsemanship. Jayne was the first alternate in Equitation over Fences, and freshman Kitt Ritter earned first-alternate status in the Flat event. Another Bulldog freshman, Katelyn Van Allen of Sorrento, Fla., earned second-alternate ranking in Horsemanship.