Bulldogs Take Third Straight Title
Collegiate equestrian on the varsity level has only been around for eight years. During that span, Georgia has taken its rule over this young sport to a dynastic level.
The 2010 Bulldog squad needed two kinds of tie-breakers to settle the issue, but they prevailed over Texas A&M to capture the overall crown at the Varsity National Championships in Waco, Texas on April 17.
The most recent crown is Georgia's fifth in eight years and third straight at the Heart 'O Texas Fairground Complex in Waco.
"This was just an incredible day and, I believe, the most special, most meaningful championship we've won so far," Georgia coach Meghan Boenig said. "It was harder this year because the competition was so fierce. We had to fight for everything we got."
First-Ever 'Rideoff' for Championship
When both Hunt Seat and Western team competitions had played out, both Georgia and Texas A&M had won titles, Georgia the former and A&M the latter. That put them in a first-place tie in the overall standings with 51 points, necessitating the first rideoff in the history of this event.
The rideoff consisted of four head-to-head dual matches, one per event. Georgia essentially sealed its victory in the opening event, when sophomore Michelle Morris won a 174-144 decision over A&M's Elizabeth Solch in Equitation on the Flat. The Bulldogs also got a winning ride from Kacy Jenkins in Fences while Texas A&M won both Western events.
Each team's raw scores were tallied once Georgia and Texas A&M split the four events. The margin of Morris' ride, however, provided the necessary cushion for Georgia to outlast the Aggies by the final tally of 603.5 to 579.
Hunters Take 1st; Western 4th
Earlier on championship day, the Bulldog Hunt Seat team won its second straight title with a narrow 5-3 victory over Auburn. Freshmen Carly Anthony and Grace Rogers saved the day, winning three of Georgia's five points. Anthony, in fact, produced points in both events. Other winning points came from Jenkins and Lipman in the Fences competition.
Georgia's Western team finished fourth in its final team standings. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs dropped a narrow decision to South Carolina in a match that required a tie-breaker to settle the outcome. USC prevailed after raw scores were tallied, 976-973.5.
Morris, Lipman Claim Individual Titles
The Varsity EQ Championships was also a banner event for a pair of Georgia sophomores. Michelle Morris and Emma Lipman became the third and fourth Bulldogs ever to win individual national championships. In succession, Morris defeated Chelsae Keyes of New Mexico State, Heather Healy of Baylor and Ally Blais of Oklahoma State to take the title in Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat. Lipman defeated two SEC rivals -- Nicole Bourgeois of South Carolina and Maggie McAlary of Auburn -- and her own UGA teammate, freshman Carly Anthony, in winning the Equitation over Fences event.
Sarah Locker (Western Reining) was Georgia's first-ever individual national champ in 2008. Haylie Jayne followed in 2009 with a title in Equitation over Fences.
Honors Abound at Team Banquet
Individual MVP honors to sophomore Michelle Morris in Hunt Seat and senior Sarah Locker in Western were among several awards handed out at the Georgia Equestrian team's post-season banquet at Athens Country Club.
The night, however, belonged to the entire squad, which had plenty to celebrate, including the program's fifth national title and its third in succession. "It was a fun evening and a great event," said Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig, who has built the program since its beginning in 2002. "There were so many accomplishments, both for the team and for the outstanding young ladies who played a part in this great season."
Morris, a native of La Canada, Calif., was perhaps the busiest, not to mention most successful, rider among Georgia's Hunt Seat corps this season. She compiled a 16-2 record in Equitation over Fences events and a 16-5-1 mark in the Equitation on the Flat rides. In the latter event she won the national individual championship with three winning rides, and she also posted a 30-point victory in the Bulldogs' "rideoff" against Texas A&M for the national team title.
Locker, a senior from Fayetteville, Tenn., went 13-5 in Reining this season for the Bulldogs, including a 3-1 mark during the Varsity EQ National Championships. She also competed as a Top 8 seed in the national individual competition in Reining.
The Coaches' Awards go annually to the two riders who consistently rise above and beyond the call of duty for the team. In 2009-10, the Coaches' Awards went to graduating senior Meghan Adams in the Hunt Seat side and to Lauren Love from the Western squad. The 2009 Sportsmanship Award, which goes to a pair of riders who display exemplary work ethic and attitude, went to Daisy Whelan from the Hunt Seat side and to Alicia Shrum on the Western side.
Becca Haaland and Carly Anthony claimed Rookie of the Year honors in their respective disciplines. Haaland, from Edmond, Okla., competed in every meet as a freshman and compiled an 8-7 record in Western Reining. Anthony, a native of Redmond, Wash., emerged as one of Georgia's top Hunt Seaters in 2010. She racked up a 14-2 record in Fences events, a 13-3 mark in Flat rides, and five of her rides won MVP honors.
A new award in 2010 was the Best Supporting Team Member, an accolade which recognizes one Bulldog who distinguished herself with exemplary behind-the-scenes work. The inaugural award went to freshman Ali Sullivan, a native of Wilton, Conn.
The "Mane Dawg" award annually recognizes the contributions of someone who, in an unofficial capacity, displays extraordinary generosity in helping the program. In 2010, the award went to Mary Meneely, who volunteered her efforts in guiding Georgia's Western riders through their late-season competitions.