Harrisburg, PA - October 12, 2013 - The $7,500 Randolph College/ USEF National Junior Jumper Championship, Phase III took place this afternoon at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, and although this final phase decided the overall Individual Champion of the class, the team spirit from the previous two nights was still very much palpable.
In Phase III, the top 60% of competitors from Phases I and II who had not been eliminated during either Phases are eligible for Phase III. Each Individual's faults from Phases I and II are combined together and the starting order of Phase III is held in reverse order of that calculation. The Individual Champion is the competitor with the lowest number of combined penalties after Phases I, II, and III, and the top three competitors are then awarded the gold, silver, or bronze medal for their accomplishment.
Out of 17 starters, four of the first five riders jumped the course clear in the allowed time of 71.0 seconds, making spectators wonder if it may turn out to be a more of a speed competition. However, that thought was quickly diminished as the rails began to fall at various fences on the course with each competitor after that. There was one elimination, and only three riders made it to the nail-biting jump off.
Third to go and lying in third place overnight with 5.5 faults, Lillie Keenan and LONDINIIUM tackled the course like pros, but did have one rail down. Even with four faults added to their score in Phase III, the duo moved into the lead and the jump off round, where they produced a super clear, securing the gold medal and the Individual Championship title.
"I actually don't think I rode so well today - my horse was a total gem and took care of me", said Keenan. "Today it was all the horse. I'd say for the first half of the course I was on my game, but I misjudged one of the lines, and luckily my horse has seen that before so he knew exactly how to take care of it, so I finished up with only one rail today. He jumped his heart out as he always does for me. I'm very lucky to have such a special horse", she said with a big smile. The pair have been together less than a year, and it's their second gold medal, winning individual gold at the 2013 North American Young Riders Championships.
Gabriele Mershad and SKARA GLEN'S BASEL, members of last night's winning Zone 5 team, were lying in 5th place overnight going into Phase III this afternoon. The pair had one rail down, but their total of 13 faults still secured a spot in the jump-off round. The pair also jumped clear and took home the silver medal.
"I'm so excited!", said Mershad. "I was not expecting it to get one medal in this competition let alone two!".
It was really tough course", she remarked. "After I walked it I knew it was going to be tough, but my horse was jumping really well in the schooling ring and I knew we could produce a clear round. We did have a rail, but it was completely my fault. I was a little deep to the skinny. I'm not a great speed rider at all and my trainer just told me to go for a clear round, so I was so happy thinking I would be fourth or fifth. I was not expecting to get the silver". After today's competition Mershad will return to college in Boulder, CO. "I'm going to hang my medals in my dorm room!", she added.
Michael Hughes and LUXINA also had 13 penalties going into the final jump-off. It seemed as though the pair were destined for silver until a rail dropped at the second-last fence and so did their placing - down to bronze.
The excitement continues tomorrow (Sunday) as over 200 competitors will be competing for the coveted Pessoa/ US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal.
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the 2011 National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Horse Show of the Year and the sixth ranked horse show in North America in the 2012 North American Riders Group (NARG) annual rankings, is one of the largest indoor horse shows in the U.S. It hosts horses and competitors from across the country with 10,000 spectators attending from the Mid-Atlantic region.
With over 1,400 qualified horses competing for $450,000 in prize money, the show features Hunter and Jumper competition and is the site of the Pessoa/US National Hunter Seat Medal Final Presented by Randolph College, the Randolph College/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships, North American League (NAL) National Finals and the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National.
In addition to world-class equestrian competition, the horse show offers a unique shopping environment with boutique vendors that offer everything from fine art to custom jewelry, clothing, accessories and horse show memorabilia.
Proceeds from the event benefit community equine and youth programs. Since its inception in 1945, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show Foundation has donated over $1.5 million to charitable entities.
For more details on show events, competitors and vendors, please visit the show's website, www.PAnational.org or contact the Pennsylvania National Horse Show at 717-236-1600 or by email, eventinfo@PAnational.org.