Auburn Earns Team Championship
Auburn claims five of the seven championships at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Finals.
By Jill Dunkel | April 18, 2018
The American Quarter Horse Journal
Auburn’s coach Greg Williams said his riders came into the championships with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove. And after four long days of competition, they proved to be the top team at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championship Show. Seven titles were up for grabs including overall team, western team, hunt seat team and individual event titles in four disciplines, and the Tigers wrapped up five of them.
Auburn defeated Georgia in the team final, 10-5, to capture its fourth overall NCEA championship. The win marks the fourth time in the last five years that the No. 1 seed has not won the overall national championship. Last year, Texas A&M won the title as the No. 5 seed. In 2015, South Carolina won the championship as the No. 3 seed, and Georgia’s last title came in 2014 as the No. 3 seed.
After an exhilarating morning of team competition, the Tigers had to settle down and battle for event champion titles. The team made the finals in all four event brackets. The finals featured four riders from each school, and in all cases, the competition came down to a 2-2 tie with all of the championships decided on raw score totals for each run.
In equitation over fences, Auburn and Oklahoma State battled, but the title went to Auburn by virtue of a 19-point raw score margin. Switching gears to horsemanship, the Tigers once again faced a familiar foe in Georgia, and slipped by the Bulldogs with a 587.5-586.5 single point victory.
Due to those victories and appearances in all four event finals, Auburn was awarded hunt seat and western discipline titles for a total of five national championships.
“It’s a big statement for our program, something we’ve been building on for a long time,” Greg said. “You saw the depth that we have with very few seniors leaving us right now, juniors, sophomores and freshman who are carrying the load.”
Georgia got a little revenge in equitation on the flat, meeting up with the Tigers for the second time that day. Earlier in the competition, Auburn dominated the flat competition with a 4-0 win for the team title. But the Bulldogs didn’t let that deter their level of riding, besting Auburn with a huge raw score margin of 668-516 to win that event.
“I’m so proud of the riding these ladies did, great fundamentals and great use of the arena,” said Meghan Boenig, Georgia coach.
Reining proved to be tough with Texas A&M and Auburn facing off for the first time since the SEC championships. The Aggies set the bar high in the first round with two 144.5 scores, but the Tigers came back to win the other two points leading to a 2-2 tie in the competition. Proving every half-point counts, Texas A&M earned the reining event championship with a .5 margin of victory.
“This group is very resilient. They worked together as a group and overcame a lot of stuff, and it showed in the arena. They came out here and they nailed it,” said Texas A&M Coach Tana McKay. “It was one of the best group efforts I’ve seen.”
This was the first year for NCEA to offer team and event champion titles. The new format is encouraging growth in the sport, with three schools attending the championship for the first time. For more information on the championship or women’s collegiate equestrian, visit www.collegiateequestrian.com.