We arrived on the grounds at 6:00 a.m. in a foggy shroud. Moisture thick in the air coated everything with a wet sheen and the faint grey of the impending morning cast an eerie gray on the Kentucky Horse Park. Setting up the in the jury box I could barely see the other side of the arena and the jumps were hazy blurs. As the light permeated through the thick fog, the jumps began to emerge and gain clarity. Colors sharpened and a championship course emerged.We arrived on the grounds at 6:00 a.m. in a foggy shroud. Moisture thick in the air coated everything with a wet sheen and the faint grey of the impending morning cast an eerie gray on the Kentucky Horse Park. Setting up the in the jury box I could barely see the other side of the arena and the jumps were hazy blurs. As the light permeated through the thick fog, the jumps began to emerge and gain clarity. Colors sharpened and a championship course emerged.
We arrived on the grounds at 6:00 a.m. in a foggy shroud. Moisture thick in the air coated everything with a wet sheen and the faint grey of the impending morning cast an eerie gray on the Kentucky Horse Park. Setting up the in the jury box I could barely see the other side of the arena and the jumps were hazy blurs. As the light permeated through the thick fog, the jumps began to emerge and gain clarity. Colors sharpened and a championship course emerged.
Often the Individual Championship courses are the most difficult of the week, but most people concurred that Olaf Petersen Jr.’s team courses were very testing and today’s courses did not appear more difficult. After a week of challenging jumping, likely at the pinnacle of most riders’ abilities, today’s Junior Individual Championship was appropriately demanding but not overwhelming.
Zone 10 riders were well positioned to medal with three riders carrying perfect scores into these final two rounds. Alec Lawler sat midway in the pack and he rode a solid round with just one rail, giving him an overall score of 24. Navona Gallegos, who rides for Zone 8 since she lives in New Mexico but spends a lot of time showing in California added nothing to her carry over score of 14 with a solid round and increasing her chances of taking home a ribbon. Taylor Siebel brought only 12 into the final competition and added just 8 more to her score. This is Siebel’s first trip to the NAJYRC and she has only recently begun competing in the jumper ranks.
Heading into the final first rounds of the morning the air was now crystal clear but the tension was thick since medals were on the line. With four riders carrying fault free scores, the riders just behind them could not afford mistakes if they wanted a hope for a medal. Both Michael Hughes (Zone 4) and Jacqueline Lubrano (Zone 2) brought in eight and each had a rail for a total of 12. Miranda Travers-Cavill (Ontario) brought five faults into the round and just a wobble to the oxer after the water resulted in four more for a total of nine.
Kaitlin Campbell (Zone 2) and Connery 9 were the first of the clears to jump around and they again posted a fault free round with the grey gelding jumping like a Regular Working Hunter. Samantha Harrison led off for the one 10 riders, and she and Santika once again easily cruised around the course. Richard "Ice" Neal was next and a rail at the oxer after the water dropped them out of the tie for the lead. Annie Cook and Gina were the final pair to tackle the course and they were primed. Last year Cook struggled at the NAJYRC, but another year of experience has made her a much more seasoned competitor. An unfortunate rail dropped Cook to a tie for bronze, however with one more round and even more tension fortunes can change.
The second round got underway with a shorter course, but by no means easier. Lawler was the first of the Zone 10 riders to return and he added only 4 to his score and finished with a total of 28. Siebel was next and she dropped to rails to tie with Lawler, but since she had the faster time the first day she will finish ahead of Lawler. Gallegos (Zone 8) returned hoping to stay in the top ten, and another clean round assured her of a top ten finish. Several of the following riders dropped rails and Gallegos climbed up the ranks. The top four riders had comfortable leads over the rest of the field, but none could afford mistakes in order to take home a medal.
Neal was the first of the four to return and "Ice" kept the heat on by posting a clear round and keeping himself in medal contention. Cook was next and she assured at least one jump off for at least the bronze medal. Campbell came back and kept the pressure on Harrison and relegated the other two riders to no higher than silver. Harrison was in the most tense riding situation she has ever been in, and yet again she rode with aplomb and forced a jump off for the gold. Neal and Cook would jump off for the bronze.
And on to the jump off! Neal was the first of the two Zone 10 riders battling for bronze. He threw the gauntlet down (0/ 44.17) and Cook would have to be clear and fast. Cook gave it a shot, but a rail going into the combination dropped her to fourth and gave Neal the Junior Individual Bronze medal. Gallegos’ consistent riding moved her up to fifth. Now it was on to determining the gold.
Campbell returned first and made a few daring turns (0/ 44.23), thus really putting the pressure on Harrison. Harrison gave it a shot, but she dropped her first rail of the competition going into the combination and then eased up on Santika knowing she was silver. She finished with a solid round.
Although we held two jump offs for the different medal positions, Neal had the fastest time of the day. Zone 10 is taking home the Junior team gold and silver and bronze in the Junior Individual, a very good outing for the riders from California. Both Harrison and Neal are rookies at the NAJYRC.
And now on to the Young Rider individual championship where Lucy Davis and Paris Sellon (Zone 10) are in medal contention. Jennifer Waxman (Zone 5) is in the lead by less than a rail. The individual championship course proved a bit more inviting than the team competition course. Even the early riders, those who had the most faults to date, got around without major mishaps. Sarah Tredennick (Zone 8) had a lot of difficulty in the team competition only added four faults afer her first round in today’s individual championship. Fernando Martinez (Mexico South) posted the day’s first clear round.
Of the four Zone 10 riders qualified for the Individual Championship, Karl Cook elected not to go since he was so far down in the standings. Saer Coulter went into the two final rounds in eleventh, posted a clear round and moved into the top ten. Paris Sellon returned in third and had four at the water which dropped her to fifth. Lucy Davis was next and has ridden very consistently so far. Last year she anchored Zone 10’s gold medal Junior team and posted five fault free rounds to claim the individual gold. Davis added no more penalties and put the pressure on Waxman who could afford time faults but not a rail in order to maintain her lead. Waxman, the veteran that she is, matched Davis’ clear round and kept the excitement going.
Again the course was shorter, but the second round still proved challenging. Riders had a difficult time figuring out the ride from 3AB followed by five strides to fence 4, a big, square oxer. All three Zone 10 riders were in the top ten with Davis in second. The disasters have diminished from the team day as the riders are dealing with a course more suitable to their ability.
Coulter led off for the Zone 10 riders and set the standard in the second round with another clear round, thus ensuring herself a top ten finish. As we watched the top ten riders, it was one clear round after another as the riders clearly did not want to sacrifice their ranking. Sellon followed suit with a spectacular clear round. Clearly the preparation her trainers, Dick and Francie Carvin and Susie Schroer have given Sellon leading up to these Championships is paying off. Jessica Springsteen (one 2) followed and also posted a clear round; she will be no lower than fourth. Joelle Froses (British Columbia) had to jump clear, otherwise a rail would knock her out of medal contention to sixth. With determination she clinched herself at least a bronze medal, and posted the sixth consecutive clear round. Next up, Davis riding for at least the silver. True Love was sterling with a clear round, and the gold medal was in Waxman’s hands to win or lose. However, losing was not her motif of the day and Waxman posted the tenth consecutive clear round with just a time fault added to her score. In fact, all of the top ten riders never dropped a single rail and just two riders posted a single time fault each.