By SAM MCCLINKTOCK
The University of Mary Washington equestrian team is consistently one of the most successful varsity sports teams, placing at competitive levels at their shows against other universities, despite the lack of hype among UMW sports fans.
The equestrian team is a continuing program of UMW for the past 40 years and success keeps coming for these horseback riders.
The dedicated team of riders practices three times a week from September through May at local Hazelwild farm. They compete in tournaments throughout the fall and spring semesters.
Recently, UMW hosted the prestigious horseback riding show, the Tournament of Champions on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Hazelwild.
The team hosted 20 schools from around the country, including University of Kentucky, University of Delaware, Virginia Tech, University of Massachusetts and Cornell University.
UMW more than held their own in the tournament, placing sixth overall among the competition.
The team is currently ranked first in the region, accumulating 233 total points. They are followed by Virginia Commonwealth University with 194 points, and Christopher Newport University with 180 points.
UMW junior Molly Banfield leads the way for the team, ranked first in the region individually with 61 points. If she remains in first place for the rest of the season, she will automatically qualify for nationals, which takes place the first week of May.
Banfiel, who has been riding since she was 12 and joined the team during her freshman year, made it to nationals last year as a sophomore as well.
Coach Teresa Sea is in her fifth season as coach of the UMW Riding team and spoke highly of the hardworking team.
“We have taken at least one player to Nationals every year I’ve been here; it’s a really fun experience for them,” said Seay.
The team will host another show on February 15th and 16th at Hazelwild farm, following their sixth place standing at the Tournament of Champions.
This will be one of two remaining shows for the equestrian team, and students can catch the horseback riders in action as they compete locally.
In addition, Hazelwild farm will host the Regional Finals where UMW will be competing to maintain their first place position.
Students are encouraged to go watch the horseback riders perform as they are in the midst of a great season.
For students interested, Hazelwild farm is located south of campus off of Jefferson Davis Highway and is about a 5-10 minute drive.