WACO, Texas –The No. 2 Auburn equestrian team put together a true team effort Saturday afternoon and captured the 2018 NCEA Championship crown, defeating No. 1 Georgia, 10-5, in the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.
The national title was the program’s fifth overall and second in the last three years.
“It’s always wonderful to win a national championship, but it was also very nerve-wracking when you go in with a team that should win it like the one we had,” head coach Greg Williamssaid. “Georgia is a great team and they weren’t going to give it to us. This Auburn group deserves it and I’m so proud of everyone for their efforts this whole week.”
“I can’t put this feeling into words,” senior Alexa Rivard said. “I would not want to do this with any other team. We worked so hard all year and learned from mistakes made throughout the season. We just won a national championship!”
“Everyone came through today and did their job,” junior Caitlin Boyle added. “We were ready for some redemption and came through.”
The young Hunt Seat crew had an outstanding performance overall, giving up just one point between Equitation on the Flat and Equitation Over Fences for a 7-1 mark against the Bulldogs.
“They came here ready to ride,” Williams said. “The whole team did. This Hunt Seat team stepped it up a notch this week and really rode to their potential. It was fun to watch.”
“Georgia rode beautifully today and made it a great contest,” Boyle said. “It was a great feeling to put together clean rides and get that edge over them.”
Auburn quickly took a 4-0 lead after Equitation on the Flat. Junior Ashton Alexander opened with a 177-175 win over Madison Newman and was followed by a 179-171 victory for freshman Taylor St. Jacques. Junior Hayley Iannotti edged Addyson Cord, 175-173, before Boyle put up a huge score of 181 to complete the sweep.
Horsemanship pushed the Tigers to a 6-1 lead at the half as the group finished 2-1 overall. After the Bulldogs took the first point, redshirt junior Kelsey Jung bested Bailey Anderson with a 149.5-147 win. Freshman Deanna Green tied her match with 151 points before junior Lauren Diaz came away with a 148.5-147.5 win over Sammie Johnson.
Georgia cut into Auburn’s lead after Reining, going 3-1 over the Tigers. Rivard put together a great ride in an uncharacteristic situation as her saddle started to slide off halfway through her performance. She held on and finished with a 141.5, besting Jordan Carpenter’s 134.5.
“I kept working on staying in the moment,” Rivard said. “The horse I rode was awawesome and I knew I could push hard and get a good score. My saddle started to slip halfway and I was hanging on by a hair the rest of the ride. Thankfully, it all worked out.”
“About 90 percent of riders would be in the dirt in that situation,” Williams added. “She is one of the very few that could make it work. She did a phenomenal job rebounding and captured enough points to win.”
Needing just one point for the title, Auburn went into Equitation Over Fences with a 7-4 lead. Georgia cut it to two with a win in the first match, but Boyle kept her undefeated streak in the event intact as she topped Cord, 177-168. The individual win sealed the overall team victory.
Power literally went out for an hour in the whole arena after Boyle’s ride and stalled the remainder of competition. After the lights came back on, St. Jacques finished her perfect meet with a 171-168 win against Tritschler and Alexander closed out with a 160-153 victory over Darst.
Boyle was named the Most Outstanding Performer for the championship in Fences, while St. Jacques earned the honor in Flat. The Auburn Hunt Seat crew will not lose a single rider from this year’s championship run, while the lone senior on the Western side was Rivard.
“The 2018-19 season looks really bright for Auburn equestrian,” Williams said.