By Larri Jo StarkeyThe American Quarter Horse JournalApril 20, 2013
Auburn University's head equestrian coach, Greg Williams, is doused with water after his team wins the 2013 overall NCEA national title. (Larri Jo Starkey photo) Scroll to the bottom for more photos from the competition.
Auburn University clinched the overall national equestrian title April 20 at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association national finals in Waco, Texas.
After Auburn won the English bracket, Auburn and the University of Georgia were tied for the overall championship, leading to a “sudden death” playoff.
“It was a long hard day!” said Greg Williams, head coach for Auburn. “(The hardest part was) making sure we stayed focus and didn’t think about this end result – thinking about just what was in our control.”
In NCEA competition, an NCAA-emerging sport formerly known as Varsity Equestrian, competitors from two schools ride the same pattern on the same horse. The student-athlete with the highest score wins the match, earning a point for her team. Students compete in equitation, equitation over fences, horsemanship and reining.
In normal competition, four riders represent each school in each discipline. For the ride-off, each team selected one representative for each discipline.
“We knew that we first had to win the hunt seat title to get our western group back in the mix. As that closer and closer, I think even that focus was the hardest thing, and that’s a great tribute to the girls and a great tribute to the coaching staff for doing that.”
At the national finals, English and western teams compete in separate brackets.
“These kind of split brackets are tough on us,” Greg said. “We’re much better as a one team. When we had a heartbreaking loss at (Southeastern Conference finals), they got themselves set up to win this (national championship). They said that when they got to nationals, they made sure to pull through and not have that kind of collapse again.”
Eight seniors are leaving the championship team, he said.
“We’re a pretty young team, but they were instilled and put in the right spot by the coaches and the seniors on the team,” he said. “They’ve set this young class up. They’ve done their job.”
Auburn last won the overall title in 2011.
In western competition, the finals came down to the top two seeds from the original brackets, No. 1 seed Oklahoma State University and No. 2 seed Kansas State University.
“They’ve been performing well all year,” said Oklahoma State head coach and AQHA Professional Horseman Larry Sanchez. “I knew we had a strong team and if they rode well, it would give us a chance.”
The Oklahoma State horsemanship team swept Kansas State, 4-0, and the reining team divided the honors, 2-2, giving OSU the win with a 6-2 score.
“I’m very proud of our horsemanship girls going 4-0, because K-State is a very good team,” Larry said. “They just were on today, and it showed in the finals. We wouldn’t win this if it wasn’t for the entire team. Throughout the year, some girls did really well and the next week, other girls would do really well and that’s what it takes to win a championship like this is the entire team working together as a unit.”
AQHA is a sponsor of NCEA along with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, a club format collegiate riding competition. AQHA President Johne Dobbs of Champaign, Illinois, was on hand to present the western trophies.
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