COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gamecock senior Colvin Hedgepeth will graduate from the University of South Carolina this week, and before she leaves town, she spoke with GamecocksOnline. Hedgepeth talks about her year as the Hunt Seat captain, and reflects on her four years on the Equestrian team.
With graduation around the corner, what, if any, are your post-graduation plans? I am working as a communications intern with the American Junior Golf Association this summer. Come September, I have no idea what I'll be doing!
What are your thoughts as your time in college is about to come to an end? I have very conflicted feelings as my college career comes to a close. I'm so excited to move on to the next stage of my life and see where the wind blows me in terms of a professional career, but I'm overwhelmed by the thought of leaving a family that USC equestrian has created for me. I doubt that I will ever have a support system of friends like I have here at Carolina, with 35 girls ready to have my back at a moments notice.
When you think back to your first day as a member of the Gamecock equestrian team, what comes to mind? I remember the first week at school which was filled with coaches/administrative meetings. I recall that all of the girls older than me had nicknames, and so did their cars. While that might seem like a silly memory, it is a tradition that has lasted throughout my four years here and is a testament to the cordial nature our team.
What has been the most challenging part about being a student-athlete? Time management is definitely a skill that challenged me at first, as balancing academics, athletics and a personal life was difficult as a freshman. At the same time, I think time management is now one of my strengths and gives me an edge over other students.
What has been the most rewarding part about being a student-athlete? Hands down, having the support of Gamecock community at your fingertips. Not only did my team quickly become my family, but student athletes have a chance to make connections with other athletes and get beneficial support from the administrative staff. And finally, diehard Gamecock fans are awesome. While fans for Gamecock Equestrian might be hard to come across, I always felt the love from Gamecock Nation and wanted to prove our worth for them.
Now that your college career is over, talk about your four years as a member of the equestrian team. My time on the team has centered around growth- my personal growth, evolving the program to match our competitors, and challenging each other to be the best. People might not realize that I only competed twice freshman year; I was the type of rider that needed one on one instruction and time to adjust to the format of the competition. Sophomore year gave me the chance to prove myself as a starter in the competition lineup, and I guess I've been growing as a competitor ever since. Out of the ring, these four years have given me great insight on leadership and how it has a huge affect on the direction of your team throughout each season. A positive team dynamic between coaches, captains, and other teammates was crucial to the success of our team, and I experienced an array of team dynamics throughout my career. The team this year has been my favorite by far.
What is your most memorable moment at South Carolina? My ride in the Championship round of SECs this year really stands out in my mind. I had drawn the exact same horse and rider in this competition last year, and struggled on the horse. When I knew that I would face the same pair this time in the Championship round, it took a lot of mental power to forget the outcome of last year. I ended up having a great ride on the horse and easily defeated my opponent- I was able to walk in with confidence and gave the judges no excuse to score me low. It's memorable as it's proof that hard work and mental focus have completely changed me as a competitor in the last year.
What will you miss the most about being on the team? The teammates, sisters, and family that I will be separated from. I don't want to say that I will lose them, as I plan to stay in contact, but it will be terribly hard to not have a network of friends rooting for me and each other every day of the week. I'll also miss my care horse, Roxy, as she was the first horse I rode at Carolina and has been my responsibility for the last four years.
How exciting was it to win the team's first ever Southern Equestrian Championship this season? I can't even begin to explain how awesome it is to win this title. Maggie and I put a lot of effort into challenging the team this year to be competitive in the postseason meets, and to have something to show for that is amazing. I'm so happy that my senior class has a legacy, and we can always say that we were the first to win this Championship- we deserve it!
Talk about your year as the Hunt Seat team captain and what you and Maggie (Western team captain) wanted to do? When Maggie and I talked last summer about how we planned to approach this year, I told her that I wanted to be intimidating and challenge the girls to always push their limits. I don't know how intimidating I was, but I'm confident that we were consistent in our drive to be better. We also wanted to take advantage of all of our resources, such as watching film from practice or meets, team talks with the sports psychologist, and constant reminding to use each other for constructive criticism. I think encouraging feedback among teammates during practice and competition really helped us this year, as communication lines were always open which gave us an outlet to gauge the pulse of the team and our performance.
You ended your college career with a victory over Kansas State at Nationals... how nice was it to win your final ride as a Gamecock? My last ride was very bittersweet; I drew one of my favorite horses that I rode two years ago at Nationals, against a very good friend of mine from K-State. I had the horse second and knew that I had to ride smart to win my point, but I also knew that the horse I was riding had a lot of buttons so I really focused on having fun. The day before had obviously been rough, so I was so grateful to end on a good note and just enjoy my last ride.
If you could go back four years and give the freshman version of yourself a piece of advice, what would you say? I would have told myself and the former team to not focus so much on winning. Most of the team's success this year, and especially second semester, is due to the fact that we stopped caring about the scores on the board or which team won the point, and started focusing on performing at our best and making each other proud. If I got on the bus at the end of the day and had a great ride, it didn't matter if I won or lost because my team accepted my performance and that's all that mattered. You win more when you erase the concept of winning from the picture.
What are your words of wisdom to the remaining members of the team? I'd say that our greatest discovery this season was the idea of challenges, and I think that strategy should be continued. Always challenge yourself to be better, and always assign a purpose or goal to each role on the team. Whether it be as a coach, competitor, warm up rider or cheerleader, go out every day with a mission and if you stick to that you won't lose.