COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 5 South Carolina returns to action on Saturday, when the Gamecocks host No. 6 Texas A&M at One Wood Farm in Blythewood. Saturday's meet is set to begin rain or shine at 1 p.m., and admission to all Gamecock equestrian meets is free. The Gamecocks will be holding their annual Equi-Fest Kids Day on Saturday, as the marketing department has lined up a great list of activities and events for children throughout the day. Participation in all Equi-Fest Kids Day events is also free of charge, and those events will take place rain or shine.
"We're really looking forward to this weekend because we have a lot going on Saturday and because we'll be competing against a very tough Texas A&M team," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "Texas A&M is traditionally a very good team on the road, so we'll certainly need to stay focused and not get too caught up in the emotions of our senior day festivities."
SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA The Gamecocks enter Saturday's meet ranked fifth in the latest NCEA coaches poll. South Carolina had been ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, but the Gamecocks have dropped four straight meets. Carolina is currently 4-4 overall and 3-2 in conference action. South Carolina's last win came against Texas A&M on Nov. 16, when the Gamecocks defeated the Aggies, 11-8, in Bryan, Texas.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M The Aggies enter Saturday's meet tied for sixth in the latest NCEA coaches poll with former Big-12 foe Baylor. Texas A&M is currently 4-4 overall and 0-3 in SEC play. The Aggies' last win came on Nov. 10 against Fresno State. Texas A&M has won only one road meet so far this season, a 15-5 decision at South Dakota State to open the season on Sept. 22.
FAN ADVISORY There will be parking available in the upper parking lot at One Wood Farm, and fans are asked to follow the instructions of our on-site security personnel for parking. For the safety of the riders, please do not bring colorful umbrellas. They will likely spook the horses and therefore pose a safety risk to the riders.
EQUI-FEST KIDS DAY Each year, the Gamecock equestrian team and the South Carolina Athletics Marketing Department hold Equi-Fest Kids Day at one of Carolinas home meets. The annual event is put on to promote the equestrian team, and to attract children who have not been exposed to the sport of equestrian. The lineup of events is listed below, and there is no fee or charge to participate in any of the events.
EQUI-FEST EVENTS & ACTIVITIES Decorate a Cowboy Hat (we give you the cowboy hat - you customize it with stickers, gems, and glitter) Make Your Own Stick Horse Decorate a Horseshoe (we give you the horseshoe - you customize it with gems, glitter, and ribbon) Poster Making Station Face Tattoos (Gamecock tattoos that are easy to put on and remove) Bouncehouse (inflatable jumping house for children) Cocky will be in attendance for photos and to meet-and-greet fans Pony rides with Gamecock horses
IT'S BEEN A WHILE Saturday's meet marks the first time that Texas A&M has been to One Wood Farm since the 2008-2009 season. The Gamecocks and Aggies last faced off in Blythewood on Jan. 31, 2009, as Carolina defeated Texas A&M, 13-7. Then-junior Megan Massaro earned MVP honors in both Equitation Over Fences and Equitation on the Flat to lead then-No.7 South Carolina to the upset victory over then-No. 2 Texas A&M. That meet was the first ever equestrian competition between the two schools. The Gamecocks cruised to a 9-1 Hunt Seat victory, as the Gamecocks swept the Aggies 5-0 in Equitation on the Flat and later picked up a 4-1 win in Equitation Over Fences.
HIGH MARKS In South Carolina's 10-9 loss at Auburn last week, three Gamecock riders broke SEC records this season with high scores. Senior Kimberly McCormack's 94 in Equitation Over Fences, redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth's 80.5 in Horsemanship, and freshman Sarah Bouchard's 75 in Reining all topped the highest scores of the season in each of their events. Bouchard's 75 is now second in the SEC, as her Auburn opponent defeated her with a score of 77, still giving her the highest Reining score of any Gamecock this season.
SWEET-16 For the second year in a row, McCormack and sophomore Katherine Schmidt both find themselves atop South Carolina's wins list for the year. Both Hunt Seat riders have a combined 16 wins between them as each has eight wins apiece this season.
CLOSING IN Redshirt freshman Samantha Smith is second on the team in wins, as she is currently 7-3-1 for the Gamecocks this season. Smith is 4-1-1 in Equitation Over Fences, and 3-2 in Equitation on the Flat with one MVP, which came at Texas A&M on Nov. 16.
Three Gamecocks currently sit at six wins apiece on the season. Hunt Seat captain Amber Henter is 6-2 in Equitation Over Fences this season, sophomore Sam Chiodo leads the entire Western team with a 6-1 record in Horsemanship, and freshman Sally Henry also has six wins this season, as she has excelled for Carolina this season in Equitation on the Flat, going 4-2 to go along with two more wins in Equitation Over Fences.
FAB FIVE The Gamecocks have five sophomores that have combined for 22 wins this season. Schmidt, (8-8; 2 MVP's) Henter (6-2), Chiodo (6-1), Layla Choate (4-1-2), Cody McMillion (4-3; 1 MVP) have all been solid for Carolina this season. The five riders combined for 61 wins last season, making last year's freshman class the winningest class on the team.
UP NEXT South Carolina will host its final home meet of the season on Fri., March 1 when the Gamecocks face Delaware State at 1 p.m. The Gamecocks then close out the regular season one week later, with a road trip to Kansas State (Mar. 8) and Oklahoma State (Mar. 9).