Lexington, KY- The second USHJA Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper Regional Championships took place July 25-28, at the GO Show held at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, OK. The event garnered high praise from competitors, who were among the best team and individual talents within Zones 6 and 7.
The experience of the championship format and team concept was a first for many of the competitors, but as Piper Fisk, member of the Children's gold medal Team from Texas put it, "This is such an amazing experience because I've never had the opportunity to be a part of a team. Riding for a team is a totally different thing, you have a whole group of people that are counting on you. In that situation there is a different kind of pressure that you feel. It's a combined pressure of the amount you put on yourself, and the responsibility that you feel in supporting your teammates. Winning the team gold was one of the best experiences of my life. It was such an unforgettable moment, standing on top of the podium, hugging all of my wonderful teammates that I call friends. We all rode so very hard and it paid off in the end. We stood proud in representing our state, Texas."
30 horses passed their inspection and were ready for competition in Thursday's opening round of team competition. Five teams in the Children's Jumpers representing seven states took on the technical challenges created by course designer Phil J. DeVita of Apopka, FL. Each of the teams put forth their best efforts in the hopes of earning a podium spot. After two rounds of intense competition, the scores were tallied up and it was Team Texas I with a mere five faults who secured the Gold medal. Chef d'Equipe Britt McCormick's team of riders included Piper Fisk, Annie Kartsotis, Taylor Archer and Avery Pietrowiak. The Silver medal was awarded to the combined Team of Louisiana and Oklahoma which included riders Madeline Laborde, Maggie Lindemann and Marissa Degner with Chef d'Equipe T.J. LeBlanc. The Bronze medal was presented to the combined Team of Kansas and Missouri with Kris Cheyne as Chef d'Equipe for riders Katie Young, Alex Gill, Linnea Rimmer and Brianna Butler.
Central Region Children's Team Medal Winners Photo
©Holly Ridge Photography
Following the presentations Annie Kartsotis of Team Texas I said, "I just want to say thank you for putting on such an influential class, it has inspired me to pursue riding outside of the junior hunter and Derby ring and I can't wait to see what comes next. USHJA has done an amazing job. This week has been so organized it's hard to believe it's the inaugural year!"
Texas Chef McCormick added, "It was especially exciting for me because I was on the task force that helped create the championships. To be a part of the process from the formative stages all the way to the gold medal podium was very cool! Everyone I talked to had a really great time and learned a lot about the process and the format, which were the major goals for the championships from the outset."
The Adult Amateurs boasted four skilled teams who gave spectators quite the thrill as they traversed across another course designed by Phil J. DeVita. When the final scores came in, it was Chef d'Equipe Jim Urban's Team Kansas-Nebraska members Susann Berry, Emily Colella and Tom Urban sharing the golden moment of the competition.
An overjoyed Susann Berry exclaimed, "What a thrill! I didn't start riding until I was 37 years-old, and not in A-rated competitions until I started working with the Urban's six years ago. Grigsby is my first and only horse. How blessed I am to have found such dedicated and inspirational trainers as the Quail Run team of Jim Urban, Dan Urban, and Dannee Risler and to have such a big-hearted, off the track, thoroughbred who always takes care of me."
The Silver medal went to Team Louisiana with Chef d'Equipe T.J LeBlanc and riders Lauren Brown, Katie Jefferis and Gabrielle LeBouef.
"I thought it was a great experience. It was a little confusing at first, but that's what this whole experience was for; to learn what it is like to compete in a championship/World Cup format. It was a great way to see how we can handle the pressure of being on a team and the endurance of competing in five to six rounds total, including the individual. Everyone was very friendly and positive." Lauren Brown said.
The Bronze medal was awarded to Team Texas I members Erin Ann Oakes, Camille Alexander and Gina Serkasevich along with Chef d'Equipe Britt McCormick. Camille summed up the shared feelings, "I'm very grateful to be able to have the chance to participate in this. After riding for 13 years and never participating on a team, I feel it's truly something everyone needs to experience. Being on a team makes you try so much harder. You don't want to let your teammates down. The experience is both fun and exciting!"
The individual rounds of the competition were just as fierce. The Children's section saw 18 determined riders in the starting field. Piper Fisk (TX) and partner Walk On continued their performance with another faultless two rounds to claim the children's individual gold. Following the final round two riders found themselves in a jump off for the Silver and Bronze medals, Grace Edwards (TX) and Marissa Degner (OK) each had 12 faults, but an unfortunate off course scenario put Edwards in the Bronze position.
"Coming into the last two rounds of the competition clean and in the lead, created the most amount of pressure that I've ever felt. But with the confidence of my trainer Britt, and my teammate Jelly (Walk On), we completed this competition with five clear rounds. The feeling of crossing the timers, knowing we had just won gold in the individual championship, was one of the best feelings in my life. I was smiling from ear to ear and Jelly celebrated with a happy buck! When I stepped up on the podium to receive the gold medal, I felt this great sensation. I couldn't believe I won this championship, when at first I didn't even think I would qualify. I will take with me the sensation handling the pressure and embracing the competition." Gold medalist Fisk shared.
Included in the bevy of prizes awarded to Fisk was one that greatly interests this young rider, a spot in an USHJA Emerging Athletes Program 2014 Regional Clinic of her choice. Each of the individual Children's gold medalists from the regional championships is presented with this same opportunity.
Following the Children's Individual Championship a dozen Adult Amateurs competed for individual honors, with Emily Straw Colella (KS) and Lauren Brown (LA) coming into the final day fault free, but Brown would pick up eight faults while Colella held to her perfect ride and reached the top of the podium for gold. Ashely Hyten (TX) had solid rides throughout the competition, and entered the last round with eight faults. Likewise Tom Urban (NE) came with eight faults, and soon found himself in a three way jump off for the Silver and Bronze medals. Urban rode a flawless jump off and with the quickest time secured his silver position on the podium. Falling just under the pace Brown picked up the Bronze medal.
|Emily Straw Colella and Washington|
Once Colella had a chance to catch a breath, she spoke of the personal benefit gained from the competition format and team experience, "I had a great time being part of a team and as an amateur, the opportunity to participate in a national jumper final with a Nations Cup format was phenomenal. All five courses were challenging and asked questions of both the horse and rider. I couldn't have been happier with my horse, Washington, for putting in 100% and producing five perfectly clear rounds. The friendships and sportsmanship displayed throughout the classes were unequivocal and I believe that the team championship builds this rapport. I moved to Kansas this year from Arizona where I rode with Leslie Stohlgren and showed in California with Hap Hansen; it has been fun to prepare and qualify for the Championships and I am honored and excited to have won the team and individual gold...I couldn't have done it without such a great horse and team of trainers in front, beside and behind me!"
USHJA would like to thank the supporters of the Children's and Adult Amateur Jumpers Regional Championships who have worked tirelessly in bringing success to the events, with special appreciation to Fenwick Equestrian Products, the Awards Cooler sponsor.
The next Regional Championship will begin September 4 for the North Region, comprised of Zones 1, 2 and 5 at the HITS on the Hudson VIII in Saugerties, NY. For additional information on the USHJA Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper Regional Championships visit our website and questions may be directed to Meghan Carney via email or by calling (859) 225-6721.