Lexington, KY- Leading the entire Junior team competition, Team Zone 4 took the gold, while the Young Rider team competition came down to the wire with the combined team of Zone 3/5 claiming gold at the 2015 Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Show Jumping Championships, presented by the United States Hunter Jumper Association.
After a first individual qualifying round on Wednesday, Thursday's competition focused on teams with a Nation's Cup-style format over a challenging course, designed by Alan Wade. With a total of 68 athletes from across North America, the competition has been tough. The Junior division saw seven teams from the U.S., one from Canada and two from Mexico. The Zone 4 team of Louise Graves, Mackenzie McGehee, Brett Burlington and Sophie Simpson claimed gold on a near faultless round, ending on a score of one fault. Eleven faults behind was the combined Team Zone 5/9 of Vivian Yowan, Annika Faught, Emma Wujek and Daisy Farish. Eight faults behind them was Mexico's North Team of Alfonso Diaz, Carlos Hank Guerreiro, Fernanda Rodriguez De Haene and Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez earning the bronze team medal.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Zone 4 team anchor rider Sophie Simpson. "I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this has been a huge dream for all of us and to have it finally come true; everything was aligned for us today and we had a great day." Teammate Brett Burlington echoed, "It's really nice to know you have the rest of the team supporting you, not only the Junior team but also the Young Rider Team. They want the zone to do really well, so that's a nice feeling to have." The Young Rider division saw five teams from the U.S. and one from Canada in a nail biting finish. Team Zone 3/5 riders Kalvin Dobbs, Jacob Pope, Noel Fauntleroy and Meredith "Maddy" Darst prevailed earning the gold medal with a score of 13 faults. Anchor rider Darst did not even watch the final two rounds once she finished to see if her four fault round would still be enough to earn the gold. "I wasn't watching," said Darst. "I got off and had no idea. They announced it, 'Zone 3 Gold' and was like 'wait, I'm with Zone 3!'"
The team members recognized it took the whole team to win the gold. "I'm pretty excited that we all won as a team," said USHJA 2011 Emerging Athletes National Champion and Zone 3/5 team member Jacob Pope. "It really was a team effort. Noel was clear the whole way through, Maddy really carried us through it too. I had eight faults and one clear round. So, we all pitched in, and it was really exciting. This is what I was really going for this year." The battle for the next two spots on the podium remained close between Team Zone 2, made up of Katherine Strauss, Sima Morgello, Kira Kerkorian and Lucy Deslauriers, and Team Zone 4/8, consisting of Kaely Tomeu, Brittini Raflowitz, Kelli Cruciotti and Victoria Colvin.
Riding second to last was Team Zone 2 anchor rider Deslauriers who picked up two unlucky rails, leaving it up to the final rider, Victoria Colvin of Team Zone 4/8, to determine the final placings. The pressure was on for Colvin to repeat her faultless first round. A rail halfway through the course still meant Team Zone 4/8 could potentially jump off against Zone 2 for silver. Unfortunately for Colvin, the last fence rail came down as well, clinching Team Zone 2's silver medal with 16 faults and moving Team Zone 4/8 to the bronze with 20 faults. After such a close finish, the teams were all smiles and had great admiration and praise for their fellow competitors and their mounts.
The final individual competition will continue on Saturday, July 18. USEF Network will be live streaming the events throughout the day.
For complete results please visit www.youngriders.org.