The University of Mary Washington equestrian team sent three athletes to compete in individual events at the zone championships held at Goucher College last Saturday, April 7. Of the three riders, junior Kathleen Wallace emerged as the lone Eagle to advance to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships (IHSA) on May 3.
“I looked over at coach [Teresa Seay] and she was jumping up and down so that made me really happy,” Wallace said. “I was just excited to move on to Nationals.”
Each individual competition at the zone championships had a field of eight riders, with the top two finishers in each event advancing to the IHSA Championships. Wallace punched her ticket by taking first place in the novice equitation over fences class, a result that was aided by rigorous preparation.
“I rode a lot of different horses in practices at our barn so I could be ready for any horse I got at the zone championships,” Wallace said. “We arranged the jumps how we thought they would be set up at Goucher and we guessed right so I felt prepared.”
Seay, the head coach of the equestrian program since 2009, detailed the road Wallace took to get to this point.
“She has worked very hard to get where she is,” Seay said. “She is very dedicated, she listens and she’s willing to try things we tell her. Her ride on Saturday was beautiful. She went out there and stuck to the plan we had. She had to improvise in a couple of places, but she knew where she was the whole time.“
The other two riders Mary Washington sent north to Maryland for the zone championships were sophomore Molly Banfield and senior Marina Frano. Banfield competed in the individual intermediate flat event and failed to place. Meanwhile, Frano narrowly missed qualifying for Nationals with her third place finish in the individual novice flat. The judge’s ruling did not sit well with Wallace, who was upset that her senior teammate missed out on a trip to Lexington, Ky. for the IHSA Championships.
“[It’s] really disappointing when the judge doesn’t agree with what you saw out there,” Wallace said. “We thought Marina did really well and we were surprised the judge gave her third.”
The team competition at the zone championships, which UMW did not qualify for, was won by host Goucher College. The Gophers edged out Bridgewater College, University of Delaware and St. Andrews College for the team title. Wallace said that the goal for the Eagles as a team next year is to improve to get where Goucher College finished this season.
“We took fourth in the region instead of first or second like we usually do, so it was kind of a disappointing year,” Wallace said. “We need to keep working hard over the summer and come back ready next year to win the region and advance to Nationals as a team.”
But before then, Wallace has to focus on her individual event next month. She says that she plans to add a fourth practice to her weekly session to get more rides in so she’s prepared as possible. Seay went into some more detail on how things will break down once Wallace gets to Kentucky.
“There will be 16 athletes in her class and she will again have to draw a random horse from a hat [to determine who she rides on,” Seay said. “What we’re going to do is practice on as many different types of horses between now and then so no mater what she draws she’ll know how to get it around.”