COLUMBIA, S.C. - History will be made this weekend in Auburn, Ala., as the Southeastern Conference will host its inaugural equestrian championship. The first ever SEC equestrian championship will take place on Friday and Saturday at the Auburn University Horse Center. The four SEC schools that sponsor equestrian are South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
The Gamecocks earned the No. 2 seed for this year's championship and will compete against No. 3 seed Georgia on Friday at 11 a.m. ET. Auburn earned the No. 1 seed by winning the third tiebreaker over South Carolina and will face No. 4 Texas A&M on Friday. The winner of both semi-final meets will compete for the championship on Saturday, with the two losing schools competing against one another in a consolation meet.
HOW WE GOT HERE On June 1, 2012, the Southeastern Conference announced that it would sponsor a championship in the sport of equestrian beginning with the 2012-2013 season. Equestrian became the SEC's 21st sport and is the first championship that the conference has added since softball in 1997.
Previously, one-third of league institutions would need to sponsor a sport in order for the conference to hold a championship event in that sport. With 12 members, that number was previous four institutions. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the new legislation will allow that number to remain at four for the sponsoring of new sports.
TIEBREAKER The Gamecocks and Tigers both had 4-2 conference records this season, but Auburn earned the No. 1 seed on the third tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, but since the two teams split the season series, the next tiebreaker was point spread between teams. The Gamecocks defeated Auburn, 10-9, in the fall, but the Tigers won the spring meeting by the same score, meaning both teams scored 19 points in the season series. The third and final tiebreaker would be awarded to the team with the higher cumulative raw score from the season series. When looking at just the raw scores, both teams tied again, 2,962.5-2962.5, but under the new scoring system adopted prior to last season, Auburn's western equivalency score won out, 3,123.5-3039.25.
NOT THEIR FIRST RODEO Even though this year marks the first year of the SEC Championship, it is not the first year of a post-season championship between SEC schools. In the ten years before the conference added an equestrian championship, South Carolina, Georgia, and Auburn competed in the annual Southern Equestrian Championships.
DEFENDING CHAMPS AT AN INAUGURAL EVENT? In what proved to be the final Southern Equestrian Championship, then-No. 3 seed South Carolina won its first and only title, as the Gamecocks pulled off upset wins over Auburn and Georgia to win the trophy. On day one of last year's championships, the Gamecocks upset Auburn, 12-6, South Carolina's second 12-6 victory over the Tigers last spring. In Saturday's championship meet, the Gamecocks won three of the final five points to tie the score at 10-10, giving Carolina the win in raw scores.
PAST WINNERS(SOUTHERN EQUESTRIAN CHAMPIONSHIP) 2012 - South Carolina (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: Auburn) 2011 - Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina) 2010 - Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina) 2009 - Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina) 2008 - Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn) 2007 - Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina) 2006 - Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn) 2005 - Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn) 2004 - Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina) 2003 - Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina, 4th: Vanderbilt)
LUCKY NO. 6 The Gamecocks are ranked sixth in the latest NCEA coaches poll. Last time South Carolina was ranked sixth was March of last season, when the Gamecocks defeated then-No. 3 Auburn and then-No. 1 Georgia to win their first ever Southern Equestrian Championship.
IN THE RANKINGS Despite receiving the No. 3 seed for the SEC Championships, Georgia is ranked No. 1 in the latest NCEA coaches poll. Auburn, which has the best record in the country and is 2-0 against Georgia, is ranked second. The Gamecocks find themselves ranked sixth, and Texas A&M is ranked No. 8.
SWEET 16 For the second year in a row, sophomore Katherine Schmidt posted 16 wins during the regular season. The Connecticut native has led the Gamecocks in regular season wins in both of her first two years of collegiate action. Schmidt posted an 8-4 record in Equitation Over Fences with one MVP and an 8-4 record in Equitation on the Flat with two MVP's. Last year, she posted identical win-loss records in both events too, going 8-3 during the regular season in each discipline.
LUCKY NO. 6 PART II Sophomore Katherine Schmidt is currently on a six-meet post-season winning streak. Schmidt went 6-0 for the Gamecocks at last year's NCEA National Championships. When factoring in her 3-1 performance at last year's Southern Equestrian Championships (1-1 in Equitation on the Flat and 2-0 in Equitation Over Fences), Schmidt is 9-1 during the postseason for the Gamecocks.
POSTSEASON PRINCESS Senior Kimberly McCormack has shined on the postseason stage since her freshman year. McCormack, who was named Hunt Seat MVP at the NCEA National Championships in 2010, leads the team in Southern Equestrian Championship wins (7), NCEA National Championship wins (13), and overall postseason season wins (20). In the three years she competed at the now defunct Southern Equestrian Championships, McCormack was 7-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 in Equitation Over Fences. She has a 13-1 postseason record in Equitation Over Fences, and a 7-3-1 postseason mark in Equitation on the Flat.
EIGHT IS GREAT Redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth and sophomore Sam Chiodo are tied for the SEC lead in Horsemanship wins with eight apiece. The Horsemanship duo is a combined 16-5-1 with four MVP's. Chiodo is 8-3 while Letchworth is 8-2-1 with four MVP's.
HIGH SCORES Here is a look at South Carolina's highest scores this season:
CONFERENCE LEADERS Senior Kimberly McCormack and redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth both lead the SEC with high scores in individual events this season. McCormack's 94 in Equitation Over Fences and Letchworth's 80.5 in Horsemanship are both the highest scores in each event this season. Both scores were posted during the same meet on Feb.14 in South Carolina's 10-9 loss at Auburn.
INDIVIDUAL WINS In Horsemanship, redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth and sophomore Sam Chiodo are both tied for the SEC lead in Horsemanship wins with eight apiece. In Reining, sophomore Layla Choate leads the Gamecocks with six wins during the regular season, five behind conference leader McKenzie Lantz of Georgia. In Equitation Over Fences, Hunt Seat captain and redshirt sophomore Amber Henter's nine wins are second in the conference behind Georgia's Olivia Dorey (10), and sophomore Katherine Schmidt's eight wins in Equitation on the Flat ranks third in the SEC.
ROAD ADVANTAGE Freshman Kelsey Urban is tied for the SEC lead in road Horsemanship wins with five, along with Georgia's Megan Hawkins and Auburn's Stephanie Rucci. Five of Urban's six victories have come on the road this season, including her first career MVP win at Georgia in South Carolina's win over the Bulldogs in November.
Sophomore Katherine Schmidt leads all SEC riders in road Equitation on the Flat wins with five.
ROAD ADVANTAGE PART II Seven Gamecocks sit atop the SEC's road victory list in conference meets.
In Equitation Over Fences, sophomore Katherine Schmidt is tied for the conference lead with three wins on the road.
In Equitation on the Flat, freshman Sally Henry is also 3-0, tied for the best SEC road record in the event.
In Horsemanship, redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth, sophomore Sam Chiodo, and freshman Kelsey Urban are all 3-0 on the road in conference meets this year, placing them atop the conference's road wins list. In Reining, sophomores Layla Choate and Cody McMillion both went 3-0 on the road in SEC meets, as they too are tied for the most SEC road victories in their event.
UP NEXT After the SEC Championship, the Gamecocks will close out the 2012-2013 season with the NCEA National Championships in Waco, Texas. This year's national championships will be held April 18-20. South Carolina's Hunt Seat team went 7-5 during the regular season, while the Western team went 7-4, and both squads have already earned berths at nationals.