By Ginny Boyko
After a stellar season, the University of Mary Washington’s equestrian team will be participating in the Tournament of Champions this weekend, which will take place in Painesville, Ohio. The top 25 teams in the nation will be invited, including any team ranked first in their region. In five meets this year, the equestrian team has racked up three first-place finishes and one second-place finish.
This is only the second year that UMW has participated in the tournament. Very competitive teams including Mount Holyoke College, Virginia Intermont and University of Kentucky will be there. Last year UMW placed ninth out of the 26 teams invited.
“[Teams] that did really well at Nationals last year will be there [this year],” Coach Beth Boteler said.
Only eight members of the team are invited to go, one rider for each division. UMW will be taking seven riders because senior rider Jessica VanBrocklin will be riding in both the open over fences and open on the flat competitions.
“I hope I’ll do well but it’ll be much more challenging, “ freshman Marina Frano said. “It’ll be pretty tough because the other teams also had to do really well to get there.”
Along with the Tournament of Champions, the team is also gearing up for regionals, which will be held at the University of Richmond in March. To get to regionals, a rider has to point out of their division. This means that the rider has to gain 35 points in their division (open riders only have to gain 28).
Points, which carry over from previous years, are earned through the top performers in events. A rider receives seven points for first place, five points for second, three points for fourth, and one point for fifth and sixth.
Once a rider gains 35 point they advance to regionals where they compete against everybody else in their region who has also pointed out. The top three riders at regionals earn a spot at Zones. Riders Shannon Brown and Sarah Leavitt have already pointed out of their divisions.
The Zone Championship Show, which will be held here at UMW, will take place in April. The competitions are held at individual and team levels and the top two zone riders will go on to Nationals.
“I think that’ll be awesome,” freshman Katherine Bartkowiak said. “It’ll be a lot of work to get all the horses ready.”
Bartkowiak, who has competed in one show in which she finished fifth, said she enjoyed her experience because she was not a point rider so it took some of the pressure off. Senior Kelsey Teeters is also excited for Zones.
“We’ll spend hours at a time getting the farm ready for the show,” Teeters said. “The advantage is that we don’t have to travel far and we’ll know the horses we’re riding better.”
Since UMW is hosting the show they are responsible for preparing everything. Horses will have to be clipped, groomed, the mane pulled, and suited with the right tack. Jumps will also have to be painted and decorated.
The UMW riders are also looking forward to advancing to Nationals. Last year UMW placed seventh in the national team competition.
“I think we definitely have a chance,” Bartkowiak said. “It depends on the luck of the draw, but if we go we’ll definitely do well.”
Of the four shows that will take place next semester, UMW will be hosting two. Depending on how well the team does, they could be going to Nationals for the second year in a row, but no matter what the team is staying confident.
“I know we’ll make it,” Teeters said.