With a tie score heading into the final event of the day, the No. 3 University of Georgia equestrian team swept No. 2 Oklahoma State in Flat to advance to the NCEA National Championship round.
Down two points after Horsemanship and Fences, the Bulldogs took three out of four rides to even the score in Reining leaving it up to the Flat squad to win the meet for the team. All four Flat riders won their points to make the final score 10-6. This marks the 13th time in 14 years that the Bulldogs advance to the final round of the national championship.
“It was a great day and a fight like we knew it would be,” Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig said. “Going into those last events knowing we were still battling there was a confidence in the rides and the capabilities of each of these riders that we were going to do this. It is always with pure joy that you come out of a day like today and be ready to fight for more tomorrow.”
The Horsemanship squad started competition by splitting points with OSU- two points each. Georgia dropped the first point before freshman Leah Anderson stayed composed to score a 224 over Sydnee Gemar’s 219. Junior Sara Lewis followed with the highest score of the event (226.5) to top OSU’s score of 217. The Cowgirls won the final Horsemanship point.
Georgia fell behind in Fences. Senior Ali Tritschler had a great round producing a 239 to win a point for the Bulldogs. Oklahoma State won the next three points in close matchups.
Reining made up the deficit and put Georgia back in the meet winning three points. Senior Jordan Carpenter topped her opponent 214.5-211. Caitlin Lyons followed suit with a 202.5-185.5 win. OSU won the next point before the Bulldogs won the final point with an aggressive 206-204.5 victory for Courtney Blumer.
The Bulldogs and Cowgirls were knotted at six points each with Flat left to compete.
Georgia did not back down, sweeping the Flat points for a chance at the national title. Hayley Mairano led off with a 207 and was awarded the point after her opponent’s ride received a video review, scoring a 197. Isabelle Heckler remains undefeated on the season after riding to a 231 over Hannah Coleman’s 214. Freshman Nora Andrews secured the win for Georgia, topping her opponent, 215-209, and Tritschler finished the day with a 240-220 point for the Bulldogs.
“It’s such an exciting time to be a Bulldog, as always,” senior Flat rider Isabelle Heckler said. “There’s such great camaraderie on this team. We have so much excitement and so much hunger going into tomorrow. It’s been a heck of a year with COVID and the extra precautions that we’ve taken and there’s an extra commitment and investment that goes into getting to this point. It’s really showing in our rides, our hunger, and our passion. I have never seen this kind of fire underneath us and it’s a great feeling going into tomorrow.”
Georgia is set to compete for the national title against No. 4 SMU tomorrow (Saturday, April 17). Competition for the finals will begin in Flat at 10:30 a.m. CT, followed by Horsemanship and Fences, before finishing in Reining.
Since the first NCEA Team National Championship in 2002, Georgia and Auburn have won the most titles with six each. South Carolina and Texas A&M have three apiece. The 2020 NCEA Championship was not held because of COVID-19 and a regular season national champion was not named.