Wellington, Fla. - The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's International Arena hosted some of the world's top youth athletes as CSIO Wellington continued with FEI Nations Cup competition for Young Riders, Juniors, and Children. The future stars of the sport were tested over the Steve Stephens-designed courses with round one for the three divisions taking place in the afternoon, immediately followed by the second rounds under the lights. The U.S. teams proved their mettle as the Junior and Young Rider teams won Gold and the Children's Team won Silver. The teams were led by Chef d'Equipe DiAnn Langer.
The U.S. Children's Team of Ava De Caster, Ellie Ferrigno, Genevieve Munson, and Catalina Peralta, performed brilliantly in a highly competitive nine-team field to finish as the Silver medal-winning team on a four-fault total. Mexico secured an impressive win, finishing on a total of zero. Brazil rounded out the top three with eight faults.
In round one, the first three combinations for the U.S., Peralta (Geneva, Fla.) with Wendy Ritter Peralta's Cruz Z, De Caster (Wellington, Fla.) with her own Campbel, and Ferrigno (Newtown, Conn.) with Maarten Huygens' Femke K produced flawless rounds. Though these efforts secured a round one score of zero faults for the U.S., anchor rider Munson (Rogers, Ark.) opted to jump Kama Godek and Danieli Evan's Calahan and added yet another clear trip.
The stakes were high in round two as the U.S. headed in tied for the lead with Brazil and Mexico. Going second in the order of the three top teams, Peralta and De Caster both posted clear rounds for the U.S. while Ferrigno added four faults with an unlucky rail. With Mexico's first three riders all going clear, the pressure was on Munson. It wasn't meant to be for the American's as Munson had three costly rails in addition to a refusal, marking a 16-fault round.
"This was a really exciting team. I am just so proud of all of them. They have all been so supportive and helpful around the barn. They are all engaged and a fantastic group of girls. I expect that they will go on to be on future teams," said Langer.
The U.S. Junior Team of Brett Burlington, Emma Heise, Emily Moffitt, and Kira Kerkorian romped to victory on the strength of commanding round two performances, finishing on an overall total of three faults. Standing next to them on the podium in the Silver-medal position was Brazil on 13 faults and Ireland in Bronze with 17 faults.
The time allowed of 80 seconds proved to be the nemesis for a majority of the combinations in round one. First up for the U.S., Emily Moffitt (Wellington, Fla.) left all the rails up with Poden Farms' For Sale 6, but added a time penalty, finishing .001 after the time allowed. Also adding one fault for time was Kira Kerkorian (Sagaponack, N.Y.) and Lisa Kerkorian's Nightfire 25. Refusals at the water jump and fence 8A resulted in elimination for Emma Heise (Wellington, Fla.) and Old Willow Farms LLC's Quentucky Jolly. Capping off the effort for the U.S., with the only clear performance of the round one, was Brett Burlington (Coral Gables, Fla.) and Alden Elizabeth Burlington's Bluf.
At the start of round two, the U.S. team sat on two faults, in the lead by the slimmest of margins ahead of Brazil who sat on four faults. The U.S. team dominated round two, with a four-fault effort from Moffit, clear rounds from Kerkorian and Heise, and a time penalty from Burlington, winning convincingly on three faults.
Speaking to the strength of her rounds, Burlington said, "My first round was really good. My horse jumped well and I made it around inside the time. In the second round [when I went in] we had already won, but I wanted to jump the water under the lights and even though I ended up having a time fault it went great."
Heise spoke to the value of gaining Nations Cup experience, saying "Having this event is a great experience to get your first Nations Cup under your belt at a young age and learn how to ride on a team and deal with that pressure." Burlington agreed, adding "Team events are great because for the most part, riding is an individual sport, so when you're on a team and have other people there supporting you, it is a really good feeling."
The U.S. Young Riders closed out FEI Nations Cup competition with a victory of their own. The team of Victoria Colvin, Alexandra Crown, Kelli Cruciotti, and Madison Goetzmann bested the four-team field, finishing on a two round total of one fault. Finishing second on 13 faults was Brazil while Ireland placed third on 15 faults.
Cruciotti (Elizabeth, Colo.) was the pathfinder for the U.S. in round one, marking a single time penalty with Serenity Equestrian Venture's Chamonix H. Next to go, Crown (New York, N.Y.) with her own Von Cim, produced a fast and clear round to add nothing to the U.S. score. Goetzmann (Skaneateles, N.Y.) with her own Wrigley had a foot in the water for a four-fault round. Riding in the anchor position, Colvin (Loxahatchee, Fla.) ensured the round one lead for the U.S. with a fault-free round aboard Springfield Showjumper's Zidane.
The U.S. entered round two with determination as only three faults separated them from second-place team Brazil. Cruciotti set the tone for the round with a clear effort and the U.S. team never looked back. Crown and Goetzmann both posted faultless rounds, making it unnecessary for anchor rider Colvin to jump. The U.S. topped the podium on a two round total of one.
After an evening of great success for the U.S. teams, Langer noted "I think you can say that America's got talent. It's extraordinary the talent we have in this country and [this team] is just the most extraordinary group of girls. Their accomplishments are huge - they really brought it home."
As one of only two athletes to post double-clears, Crown said of her performances, "In my first round tonight I was very fast so the goal for the second round was to tone it down a bit. [Von Cim] is naturally very quick, competitive, and careful so it worked out great. The experience was incredible. It was one of my goals for the winter season to jump on this team. I was really happy to be able to represent my country and come away with the win."
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