Head coach Meghan Boenig faces a myriad of new challenges as she enters her fourth season at the helm of the Georgia equestrian team. So high is the bar that she has now set--having guided Bulldog riders to a pair of national titles in three years--that clearing new heights remains the stiffest test of all.
Boenig has stockpiled a wealth of experience, however, since leading Georgia's inaugural varsity team to the 2003 national crown. She will draw on all of it as she pilots a new team and staff through the 2006 campaign.
"Every year I learn more about team and we'll be putting a lot more focus on defining and developing that word this season," Boenig said. "I hope to stres how our riders can take advantage of all that's out there. With our new coaches coming in from the industry, we have a lot to offer those who have interests and aspirations in the horse world."
Boenig's reputation for excellence at Georgia enabled her to rebuild her staff last summer after assistants Beth Bass and Collins Daye departed. She attracted veteran judge and equine instructor Carla Wennberg to take charge of Georgia's Western riders in place of Bass, while seasoned instructor and rider Jennifer Newman came on board to help out on the English side.
Boenig galloped through her first two seasons at Georgia with trailblazing success, winning national titles in both of the program's first two years on the varsity level. In 2002- 03, Boenig coached the University's first varsity team to the national crown at the VENC in College Station, Texas. The next year she steered her team to a dramatic comeback at the VENC, held at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Ga., for a decisive win over the nation's top 12 teams, topping second place Auburn 60-49.
Boenig first began to work her Bulldog magic on Georgia's club team . When she arrived in Athens in the fall of 2001, her mandate was to bring the club team through the transitional 2001-02 season and elevate the equestrian program to a varsity level. She accomplished the task with flair, leading the Bulldogs to the first of three straight English discipline titles at the precursor to the inaugural VENC held in 2002 in Gainesville, Fla.
During the transitional year Boenig hired a coaching staff, selected the first team, and began selling the sport to the Bulldog Nation. In succeeding years, much of her administrative focus turned to facilities and development.
Beyond Athens, Boenig is heavily involved in shaping the development of varsity equestrian, which is classified as an "emerging" sport by the NCAA. She serves as vice- chairperson of the Varsity Steering Committee that governs the sport through biannual coaches' meetings and is also the sitting chairperson for the championship committee. She is also an advocate for the proposed new bracketed tournament format that will be introduced at the 2006 VENC.
Boenig initiatied varsity equestrian's departure from the meet format associated with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) under whose auspices Georgia competed in 2002-03. She helped introduce the dual-meet format that SEC schools now use, competing by proposed NCAA rules designed to make the sport more competitive and fan-friendly.
Boenig is a 1999 graduate of Berry College where she earned her bachelor's degree in Biology. Prior to her arrival at Georgia in October of 2001, she spent two years as an assistant coach at Texas A&M during which time she also earned a master's degree in Animal Science.
Her two seasons at Texas A&M were deciding factors in her hiring as the Bulldogs' inaugural head coach. Georgia sought a coach with the knowledge of working hand-in-hand with a university's Animal Science community in forging a new equestrian team, something the Aggies had enjoyed during her tenure there.
The former Meghan Nolan is married to Markus Boenig.