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Equestrian Hosts No. 5 Oklahoma State in Season Opener on Saturday

Sept. 28, 2012

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September 28, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's fourth-ranked equestrian team begins its 2012-2013 season on Saturday, when the Gamecocks host No. 5 Oklahoma State at One Wood Farm in Blythewood. Saturday's meet will begin at 1 p.m., and admission is free.

"We're really excited to get the season started, our girls have had a great preseason and I think we have a very strong team," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "With that said, we're going to be competing against a tough Oklahoma State team, one that always rides hard and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Larry and his team won the Big-12 Championship last year, so with us winning the Southern Equestrian Championship, it adds a little flare to the meet."

• WHO: No. 5 Oklahoma State at No. 4 South Carolina
• WHEN: Sat., September 29, 2012 • 1 p.m.
• WHERE: One Wood Farm • Blythewood, S.C.
• LIVE SCORING PAGE: Click Here for Live Scores

The Gamecocks enter the 2012-2013 season as the No. 4 team in the country, according to the preseason coaches poll. South Carolina returns 87.5% (7-of-8) of its Western lineup from last year's NCEA National Championships and 75% (6-of-8) of its Hunt Seat lineup from last year's championships.

The Gamecocks have won two NCEA National Championships in program history, in 2005 and 2007. South Carolina also boasts three consecutive Hunter Seat championships from 2005 through 2007, and one Western Reserve Championship in 2007.

Oklahoma State is the defending Big-12 champion, having defeated Texas A&M in last year's championship meet. At last year's national championships, the Cowgirls won the Western Reserve Championship, finishing behind Texas A&M, last season's overall national champion.

Cowgirl to Watch: Jenna Blumer posted a 10-5-1 overall record last year, including an undefeated mark at last year's national championships. She also won the Collegiate Reining Challenge at the NRHA Derby, becoming the third Cowgirl to win the title.

Saturday's meet between South Carolina and Oklahoma State will come exactly nine months after Oklahoma State defeated the Gamecocks, 10-9, on Jan. 29. South Carolina has not lost a home meet since and is 6-1 in dual meets since the loss to the Cowgirls.

South Carolina opens the season after a successful 2011-2012 season, highlighted by the team's Southern Equestrian Championship win in March. The Gamecocks upset two higher ranked teams en route to the school's first ever Southern Equestrian Championship. On March 30, then-ranked No. 6 South Carolina upset No. 3 Auburn, 12-6 to advance to the championship meet. One day later, the Gamecocks made history, handing No. 1 Georgia its second home loss in the ten year history of the Bulldogs' program.

In June, the Southeastern Conference voted to sponsor a championship in equestrian, officially making equestrian an SEC sport. The move was possible with the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC. Previously, one-third of the SEC schools had to sponsor a sport before the conference would add a championship for it. When the conference was made up of 12 schools, four schools needed to sponsor it, but only three did (South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn). Once the conference expanded from 12 to 14 teams (Missouri and Texas A&M joined), the schools adopted legislation that would allow the conference to sponsor a championship for a sport that had four schools sponsoring it.

The inaugural SEC Championship will take place March 29-30 in Auburn, Ala.

Once the Southeastern Conference added an official conference championship for equestrian, the move effectively put an end to the Southern Equestrian Championship, the annual postseason event held for ten years involving South Carolina, Georgia, and Auburn. When the Gamecocks won the trophy in 2012, it proved to be the final time the Southern Equestrian Championship trophy was hoisted. With the Southern Equestrian Championship ending after ten years, the trophy will stay in Blythewood.

South Carolina's equestrian program has the two reining AgSouth Female Athletes of the Year in Katherine Schmidt (2012) and Kimberly McCormack). The annual male and female athlete of the year awards are voted on by fans at the end of each academic year.

McCormack posted 17 wins as a sophomore during the 2010-2011 season while winning seven MVP's. McCormack went 2-0 at the Southern Equestrian Championships and 6-0-1 at nationals, giving her a postseason mark of 8-0-1.

Last year, Schmidt led the entire nation with 25 wins while winning five MVP's as a freshman. She went 3-1 at the Southern Equestrian Championships, and 6-0 at nationals, giving her a postseason mark of 9-1.

South Carolina returns three of its four full-time Horsemanship riders from a season ago. Led by juniors Johnna Letchworth and Allison Ceresani, the Gamecocks had one of the best Horsemanship squads in the entire country. Letchworth and Ceresani finished one-and-two last year for most wins on the Western squad. Letchworth went 14-3 while Ceresani went 13-3-1 in her first season of competition. Sam Chiodo proved to be a valuable asset for the Gamecocks during her freshman season, posting eight wins and two MVP's.

South Carolina's late season success a season ago would not have been possible without the rise of the Gamecock reiners, who helped lead the Gamecocks to their first ever Southern Equestrian Championship

The Reining team returns all four starters from nationals, led by seniors Audrey Jewell and Amanda Pope. Both Georgia natives posted nine wins last season, more than doubling their win totals from their sophomore seasons. In addition to Jewell and Pope, the Gamecocks had a duo of freshmen riders who proved invaluable last year. Freshmen Layla Choate and Cody McMillion provided a jolt to the Western team, as both riders combined for 16 wins and six MVP's.

The Gamecocks have only two fall meets at home this season - tomorrow vs. Oklahoma State and Oct. 4 against Auburn.

Take I-77 N. to Exit 27, which is Blythewood Rd. Turn left back over the interstate and pass Cobblestone Park. Then turn right on the first road on the right, which is Syrup Mill Road. One Wood Farm is the first driveway on the left and is marked by a large Gamecock sign.




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