Lexington, KY - Sunday's USEA North American Junior Eventing Championship closed an action-packed week of competition at the 2011 Adequan/FEI North American Junior Rider & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North. The intense heat that plagued the area was a challenge for the eventers as well, but the majority of the horses and riders looked fresh and ready to complete the event.
Devon Brown and Dynamic Image (Area III) led the CCI2* from start to finish after posting a flawless show jumping round to finish on their dressage score of 50.5. The pair was awarded the Individual Gold medal after making easy work of the show jumping course. "It's unreal," she said after her ride. "I came here just hoping for a good run in all three phases and to give him a good confident run. I was a little worried because he hadn't done much all spring. It was just amazing. He just went above and beyond and just tried his heart out.
Jumping all the way from seventh to take home the Individual Silver medal was Area V & IX's Jacob Fletcher with his flashy colored Australian Sport Horse gelding Falcon Splash. The pair jumped double clear over both the cross-country and show jumping courses to finish on their dressage score of 57.2.
In ninth after dressage, Fletcher said he didn't foresee the leap up the scoreboard to the Silver-medal position: "My goal was to make time on cross-country and have clean show jumping. To go from ninth to second...I don't think anyone can foresee that in such a big competition."
Finally, dropping down one position to finish with the Individual Bronze medal were Area III's Sarah Kamensky and Urlanmore Beauty with a score of 58.4. Kamensky dropped one rail to add four faults to her two-day total. "He's a really good jumper and a great galloper," she said after her ride. "All the horses were really great this weekend."
In the team standings, Area III's team regained their lead to finish with the Team Gold medal and 168.6 points. Brown and Dynamic Image, Kamensky and Urlanmore Beauty, Emily Renfroe and Walk the Line, and Libby Head and Sir Rockstar make up the team. "We were really happy with (the horses)," Head said. "It was a tough course and we were really happy with all of them. It feels really good to be here."
The team from Areas V & IX slid to the Silver-medal position with a total of 178.2. The team is made up of Fletcher and Falcon Splash, Kendyl Tracy and Ever So Lucky Emma Kate Fisher and Carlingford's Merlot, and Rowdie Jo Adams and No Money down. "It's an absolute honor and the experience of a lifetime to be here," Adams said. "It really feels like we've made it and that's a huge stepping stone."
Finally, Team Canada remained solidly in third to secure the Team Bronze medal with a score of 233.2. The team is made up of Joelle Baskerville and Malibu, William Dow and Midleton, Melissa Boutin and Siamese Kat, and Christian Bennett and Rolex. Bennett said that since the Canadian Junior team also won the Bronze medal, it was "great to bring home two medals to Canada [with this Bronze medal]."
In the CCI*, less than five points separated the top five riders coming into the jumping phase and the atmosphere was tense as the final few riders took to the arena. With only a handful of double-clear rounds, the leaderboard was effectively shuffled by the time the medals were awarded.
Alyssa Phillips and her veteran partner, 19-year-old Thoroughbred Sundance Bay, had a brilliant, fast and quick round to finish on the score of 52.7, which was enough to clinch the Individual Gold medal. "It's so surreal right now," she said. "The course rode really nicely and the striding was good for my horse. I was worried about a couple fences because I thought he might be tired from cross-country and because of his age, but he pulled it off really well."
"I had no idea I would come close to [winning the Gold]," she continued. "I was just like, 'Let's get it done. Maybe will happen and maybe it won't.' We were actually able to make it. When I got my dressage score and I was in second place, I was crying tears of joy after dressage."
Of her veteran partner, she said through tears, "He's one of a kind. At 19, you wouldn't think he'd still be going. He's done so much for me. He's so special to me."
Overnight leaders Sable Giesler and Evil Munchkin pulled the first rail of a double combination on course, bringing her total to 56.3 and dropping her to the Silver-medal position. The Holsteiner looked strong as the pair navigated the course.
"I thought the course rode really nicely," she said. "I had a bit of a rough warm-up, and I wasn't riding how I should have. He was really good in there and he went really nicely. We had one rail in there, but that was just kind of by chance."
Edging up into Bronze-medal position with a speedy clear round were Brooke Pickering and Abbey Rhode, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred/Trakehner gelding. "We had a really good round," Pickering said. "The course was set up perfectly for Abbey. He comes off cross-country chomping at the bit...he wants to go and he wants to do well. He has a big stride and gets good coverage of the ground, which is what this course really needed. We just rode it really well.
Victoria New and Bally Whatnot were sitting in third after cross-country, but a quick stop at fence 10b caused the two to part company, which was cause for elimination.
The team from Area V led from start to finish and finished the competition with a score 184.4 to clinch the Gold medal. New and Bally Whatnot, Phillips and Sundance Bay, Avery Klunick and In It to Win It, and Alexa Ehlers and In Any Event make up the team.
Holding on to second in the team standings was the team from Area VI. The team finished with a score of 205.2 to take home the Silver medal. The team is made up of Piper Leddick and Emmie Lou, Zachary Brandt and Cavallino Cocktail, Kaitlin Veltkamp and Flashpoint D, and Madeline Sexton and NVR Peter the Great. "We're all kind of in shock that we ended up being the Silver medal team, Brandt said. "It's really an honor."
"I'm so proud of how all my teammates went today," added Sexton. "It's amazing to be wearing this medal."
Finally, rounding out the top three, the Bronze medal position was presented to the team from Ontario. Giesler and Evil Munchkin, April Simmonds and Sunday Best, and Brooke Pickering and Abbey Rhode amassed a total of 219.8 points.
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Photos: CCI2* Gold medalist Devon Brown on Dynamic Image. Photo: Sportfot; CCI* Gold medalist Alyssa Phillips on Sundance Bay. Photo: Sportfot.