March 30, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - Sixth-ranked South Carolina won the inaugural SEC Championship on Saturday, as the Gamecocks upset No. 2 Auburn, 10-8, at the Auburn University Horse Center. Saturday's championship is the 11th SEC Championship for the University of South Carolina and the seventh by a women's sport. It also is the first SEC Championship the Gamecocks have won under athletics director Ray Tanner.
South Carolina's Hunt Seat picked up a pair of 3-2 victories to defeat the Tigers, 6-4, while the Western team tied Auburn, 4-4, but won in raw scores, 1,414-1,399.
"I'm very proud of our team for how well they rode this weekend and for being the first equestrian team to win the SEC Championship," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "The SEC is the best conference in college athletics and it's a great accomplishment for our team to be called SEC champions."
The Gamecocks scored the first point on Saturday when redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth defeated Auburn's Griffin Knight in Horsemanship, 147.5-125.5 South Carolina took a 2-0 lead moments later when junior Alison Ceresani picked up a 147.5-147 victory over Katie Buff. Freshman Kelsey Urban held her Tiger opponent to a 145-145 tie.
"Johnna had a great weekend for us going 2-0 and I was happy that Ali was able to win her point today," Major said. "Kelsey tied her opponent today but I thought she had a great ride and we feel very confident in our entire Horsemanship team."
In the Hunt Seat arena, the Gamecocks extended their lead by winning three of five points in Equitation Over Fences. Katherine Schmidt scored the first jumping point, defeating Jennifer Waxman, 166-163, the first of two points for her on the day. Freshman Sally Henry kicked off her 2-for-2 day with a 167-166 victory over Quincy Hayes. Senior Kimberly McCormack picked up a 156-137 win over Hasbrouck Donovan, earning McCormack a spot on the SEC All-Championship Team. "
Our Flat team really saved their best for last and we really needed them to step up like that for us this weekend," Major said. "In order to be a championship contender, we knew we needed our Flat team to score some points for this weekend, and they won seven of ten points this weekend and delivered for us."
Holding a 5-4 lead at the halfway point, South Carolina managed to extend their lead after its Equitation on the Flat team picked up a 3-2 win over the Tigers. Henry completed her 2-for-2 day by winning MVP honors with a 160-152 victory over Elizabeth Benson. Redshirt freshman Samantha Smith won her point with a 161-155 victory over Anna Becker. Both Henry and Smith went 3-for-4 for the Gamecocks at the SEC Championships. Schmidt completed her 2-for-2 day and 4-for-4 weekend as she shutout Auburn's Donovan on the day with a 160-156 victory. Schmidt was voted to the SEC All-Championship Team in Equitation on the Flat.
In Reining, both teams traded points back-and-forth in what was an exciting finish to the inaugural SEC Championship. After Amanda Pope held Auburn's Hailey Munger to a 140-140 tie, sophomore Layla Choate scored what turned out to be the meet-clinching point when she defeated her opponent, 139.5-135. Senior Audrey Jewell had the final ride of the day, and slammed the door shut on Auburn's comeback hopes as she edged the Tigers' Stephanie Rucci, 131-130, preventing the meet from going to a tiebreaker.
"It always comes down to the final event with us and Auburn, and it certainly made for an exciting end to the meet," Major said. "There was a lot of pressure at that point because everyone knew that the reiners would end up determining the winner of today's meet, and I was happy for our reiners going out there today and winning the meet for us."
The Gamecocks return to action for the NCEA National Championships in Waco, Texas, which run April 18-20.
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