April 15, 2011
WACO, Texas ----- Georgia is once again poised to make a decisive push to another national championship in Equestrian.
This time, however, the Bulldogs will face perhaps their toughest challenge yet in a face all too familiar. They'll take on SEC foe Auburn for the Hunt Seat championship, simultaneously to squaring off against the Tigers for third place in the race for the Western crown.
The VENC overall scoring system awards 36 points for a first-place finish in either discipline, 28 points for second place, 21 for third, 15 for fourth and 10 for fifth place. With no other school in position to challenge either Georgia or Auburn, the quest for the overall title will come down to these backyard rivals. To clarify further, whichever team takes the Hunt Seat title is a shoe-in for the overall crown. Combining first-place points with either a third- or fourth-place showing in Western trumps the runner-up points in Hunt Seat with either place in Western.
Such a scenario will make for a dramatic finish to this ninth annual affair. "The pressure is on, no question about it," said Georgia coach Meghan Boenig, who has guided Georgia to all five of its previous national titles. "We've had a lot of close competitions with Auburn this season. This time, we just need everyone to ride like they've ridden both days out here, to ride consistently, and I think we will have a good result."
The Georgia Hunt Seaters advanced to the championship round by defeating Baylor 5-3 in the semifinal round. Michelle Morris continued her flawless performance thus far, taking points in both events, including a 71-point winning margin in her ride in Equitation over Fences. Also posting double victories was freshman Abby O'Mara. Kacy Jenkins claimed the Bulldogs' other point in Hunt Seat by taking her Fences ride in convincing fashion, 157-138.
Georgia's Western squad was defeated by top-seeded Texas A&M by a 6-1 margin in its semifinal match. Its lone point came from sophomore Maria Salazar, who is thus far undefeated in two meets at Nationals.
Saturday will mark the fourth meeting this season between squads from Georgia and Auburn. The Tigers have taken two of the first three, winning at Auburn 13-6 and again at the Southern Championships in Columbia, S.C., by an 11-9 margin. Georgia won its home date with Auburn by that same 11-9 score, rallying with three of a possible four points in Reining, the final event of the day.
Competition gets underway Saturday morning at the Extraco Events Center here in Western Reining and Equitation on the Flat at 9:30 (EDT). The final two events begin two hours later.