Lexington, KY-- After three full days of tough team and individual competition, Zone 3 riders claimed both of the Team gold medals and the Children's Individual gold, while Zone 4 claimed the Adult Amateur Individual gold at the 2015 USHJA Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper South Regional Championships, July 1-5, 2015, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC.
The race for Adult Amateur Team gold was close with Zone 3 Team 2 (Whitney Lind, Lindsay Simmons, Jennie Edwards and Caroline Williamson) squeaking out a win over Zone 4's team (Christina Couper, Maxine Star Schatten, Madison Akins and Sydney Crenshaw). Zone 3 Team 1 (Nicole Wood, Carly Hundley, Erica Caslin and Wendy Libert) encountered a few unlucky rails and ended up with the bronze.
The Children's team competition saw three teams with Zone 4 fielding two teams and Zone 3 fielding one. The team from Zone 3 (Will Kennedy, Sarah McDonald, Sydney Moriarty and Mary Elizabeth Cordia) prevailed and took the gold with anchor rider Will Kennedy jumping clear in both rounds of team competition. Zone 4 Team 1 (Isabel Harbour, Ting Oliver, Hailey Berger and Anderson Wagner) earned the silver medal just 12 faults behind gold, and the three-member Zone 4 Team 2 (Hampton Page, Oliva Notman and Caroline Biggs) rode away with the bronze.
"We have a really competitive zone," said Tracy Magness, Zone 3 coordinator and chef d'equipe for the Zone 3 teams. "The adults in our zone are very competitive all the time, and we only took one children's team, but obviously they were on point, consistent the whole time, and they got the gold."
The individual competition for both Adult and Child riders was steep. Going into the final round of the Children's Individual competition, Mary Elizabeth Cordia, age 16, of Alexandria, VA, (Zone 3) on Coritano came in with 9.5 faults and laid down a clean final round, setting the bar high for the other riders. As 16-year-old Will Kennedy of Brookeville, MD, (Zone 3) came into the final round with just one fault, he had to be careful given any more than two rails would knock him out of the top medal. His experienced mount, Ontario, had two rails but no time faults - winning the Individual gold medal. Cordia took the close silver separated by just .5 faults, and 17-year-old Sarah McDonald of Ashville, NC (Zone 3) aboard Cortina's Allesandro claimed the Children's Individual bronze.
"You would never know that he won," said his mother Rachel Kennedy. "He won't take any credit; he gives all the credit to his horse. That's the kind of kid he is." Kennedy continued, "[Will] has an experienced horse, but it always seems that there's a kid that's faster, there's always a kid that's better. As a mother, for him to finally get the chance to win, I don't even have words for how proud I am."
The pressure was on in the Adult Individual Championship as rider after rider went clean on the final day of competition. Christina Couper of Port Wentworth, GA, (Zone 4) entered the final round of competition with just 1.5 faults in hand. Putting in a clear round aboard her own Hanoverian mare Cora, Couper claimed the Adult Individual gold medal.
"When I met Christina, I could tell she was very dynamic and really wanted it; she seemed very hungry," said Zone 4 Chef d'Equipe Frances Land. "Christina was just calm and cool the entire weekend. She never seemed like she was nervous or felt the pressure; she really rode it as if she was a professional. She came in the last day looking just as put together and calm as she did the first day."
Just one and a half faults behind Couper was Adult Individual silver medalist Jennie Edwards of Upperville, VA, (Zone 3) who also jumped a clear final round but had 3 faults in hand entering Sunday's competition. Half a fault behind Edwards was Wendy Libert of Bryantown, MD, (Zone 3) aboard Papillion Peanut claiming the Adult Individual bronze after a faultless final round. Wendy and Papillion Peanut were also the Adult Individual bronze medalists at the 2014 Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper South Regional Championships.
In addition to team and individual medals, the winning teams and individuals in both the Adult Amateur and Children's will receive Professional's Choice Pro Performance open-front boots. Also, the individual Children's gold medalist will receive a coveted spot in a 2016 USHJA Emerging Athletes Program Regional Training Session of their choice.
"As a whole, [the Championship] is a wonderful experience for them," said Land. "It's really hard because many of these riders have never had a chance to compete on a team before and I think a lot of the riders were nervous or feeling the pressure," she continued. "It's a hard format because you're jumping a lot of rounds, and it was so hot! I think they all, at the end of the day, pulled it out and rode really well, so I was thrilled with everybody."
"I just hope that this program keeps growing," said Magness. "We've had good attendance all three years, and I think everybody that does it really enjoys it and looks forward to doing it again. I hope that we can get new people to participate and hopefully grow the Championships to something even bigger and more special."
The USHJA Children's & Adult Amateur Jumper Regional Championships are divided into four regions: North Region (Zones 1, 2 and 5), South Region (Zones 3 and 4), Central Region (Zones 6, 7 and 8) and West Region (Zones 9, 10, 11 and 12). Held in Nation's Cup-style format, the Championship is held for teams and individual riders. The next Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper Regional Championships are fast approaching for the Central Region, July 15-19, 2015, at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, CO.
Applications for the West and North regional championships close later this month. For more information on the Championships, including specifications, qualifying, dates and locations visit, www.ushja.org/ChAAJumper.
CHILDREN'S AND ADULT AMATEUR JUMPER SOUTH REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
Children's Team Championship GOLD : Zone 3 Team 1 Will Kennedy, Brookeville, MD Sarah McDonald, Asheville, NC Sydney Moriarty, Nokesville, VA Mary Elizabeth Cordia, Alexandria, VA
SILVER: Zone 4 Team 1 Isabel Harbour, Alpharetta, GA Ting Oliver, Ocala, FL Hailey Berger, Parkland, FL Anderson Wagner, Wellington, FL
BRONZE: Zone 4 Team 2 Hampton Page, Jamestown, SC Oliva Notman, Boca Raton, FL Caroline Biggs, Knoxville, TN
Children's Individual Championship GOLD: Will Kennedy, Brookeville, MD
SILVER: Mary Elizabeth Cordia, Alexandria, VA
BRONZE: Sarah McDonald, Asheville, NC
Adult Team Championship GOLD: Zone 3 Team 2 Whitney Lind, Bethesda, MD Lindsay Simmons, Middleburg, VA Jennie Edwards, Upperville, VA Caroline Williamson, Asheville, NC
SILVER: Zone 4 Team 1 Christina Couper, Port Wentworth, GA Maxine Star Schatten, Franklin, TN Madison Akins, Winder, GA Sydney Crenshaw, Canton, GA
BRONZE: Zone 3 Team 1 Nicole Wood, Hunt Valley, MD Cary Hundley, Ellicott City, MD Ericka Caslin, Baltimore, MD Wendy Libert, Bryantown, MD
Adult Individual Championship GOLD: Christina Couper, Port Wentworth, GA
SILVER: Jennie Edwards, Upperville, VA
BRONZE: Wendy Libert, Bryantown, MD