2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships Begin Thursday
April 13, 2011
WACO, Texas - The 2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships begin Thursday morning at the Extraco Events Center in Waco Texas, and both South Carolina's Hunt Seat and Western squads will be competing. In the opening round of the Western bracket, the fifth-seeded Gamecocks will face No. 12 seed Delaware State. In Hunt Seat bracket, the Gamecocks are seeded sixth and will face No. 11 Delaware State.
"We're excited to be out here in Waco again for nationals," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "After finishing third at last year's national championships, I think our girls realized how close we were to winning the title. We've looked great in practice, and hopefully that will carry over to the competitions."
This year marks the first time that South Carolina will face the same school in the opening rounds of both brackets.
"We're well aware of the fact that Delaware State has a strong team this season," Major said. "They also have the advantage of having beaten us here in Waco just two and a half months ago. I feel like we've gotten much stronger in those ten weeks so we'll certainly be looking for some strong rides out of our girls."
Western competition vs. Delaware State
In Horsemanship, the Gamecocks will use senior Hailey Thornton, junior Maggie Fortune, redshirt freshman Johnna Letchworth, and freshman Katie Kopf. Thornton's eight wins this season are a career-high for her, and Fortune has posted back-to-back seasons with at least seven wins. Kopf went 4-2 during regular season competition, and Letchworth has an overall record of 12-1-1.
In Reining, senior Chloe Gray looks to extend her winning tradition at nationals. Gray is 10-2 at VENC's in her first three seasons as a Gamecock and has not dropped a point in Waco since her freshman year.
Gray is joined in the Gamecock lineup by sophomores Amanda Pope and Audrey Jewell, and freshman Melia Blakely. Pope and Jewell both competed at nationals last year, while Blakely has enjoyed a strong freshman campaign with six wins.
The winner of the Western competition will face No. 4 seed Georgia on Thursday afternoon. The losing team will be eliminated from competition.
Hunt Seat competition vs. Delaware State
Unlike last year's Equitation on the Flat lineup that had three seniors in it, this year's group will be a much younger but equally successful group. All-American honorable mention Kelsey Hart will be competing for the first time at nationals. As a freshman, Hart is currently 5-1 in Equitation on the Flat.
Joining her in the lineup will be redshirt junior Victoria Middleton, junior Colvin Hedgepeth, and sophomore Kimberly McCormack. Like Gray, Middleton has enjoyed success at nationals. As a freshman in 2007-2008, she went 3-0, following that up with another 3-0 performance in 2008-2009. Middleton competed in the individual bracket in 2009, and was named Reserve National Champion.
In Equitation Over Fences, McCormack will remain in the lineup for the Gamecocks. She went 4-0 at VENC's last year, earning her MVP of the entire Hunt Seat bracket. McCormack posted 15 wins last year as a freshman, and enters this year's championship tournament with 11 wins.
Also competing for the Gamecocks in the jumping event will be junior Carolyn Curcio, sophomore Alex Arute, and freshman Morgan Hale. With an 8-3 record in Equitation Over Fences, Curcio will be competing at nationals for the first time. She is tied with McCormack for a Hunt Seat team-high 11 wins. Arute has posted back-to-back seasons with six wins during regular season competition, and went 1-1 at last year's nationals.
The winner of the Hunt Seat competition will face No. 3 seed Baylor on Friday morning. The losing team will be eliminated from competition.
Live scoring will be available for both competitions on our Live Scoring Page.