Befitting the first Saturday in May, St. Lawrence University and Skidmore College finished in a dead heat for the prestigious Collegiate Cup high-point team honors at the 40th annual IHSA National Championships, May 2-5 at the Farm Expo Equine Center in Harrisburg, PA.
"Sharing is better than losing to her," joked Mary Drueding, coach of defending IHSA Collegiate Cup team, St. Lawrence University, about friend and rival, coach Cindy Ford, whose Skidmore College team turned up the heat in the homestretch to tie St. Lawrence with 22 points apiece.
St. Lawrence had galloped to the early lead in the competition with multiple victories, but when Skidmore's Flavia D'Urso won the Team Open Equitation Over Fences on the final day, the momentum shifted.
Each school had 22 points, with just the Open Equitation on the Flat class remaining for the team totals. Whichever school earned the best ribbon in this class would claim the title.
It wasn't meant to be, however. After the ribbons were all handed out, the Skidmore and St Lawrence riders were left empty-handed.
Centenary College's Kate Haley, the 2010 USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session winner, chose this class to make her mark. She took the Team Open Equitation on the Flat victory, a repeat from 2011 when she won the same class as well as the Open Equitation Over Fences.
With no added ribbons, the New York-based schools St. Lawrence and Skidmore's scores remained tied and the pair shared the 2013 honors, marking only the third time in IHSA history that two teams have shared the Collegiate Cup high title.
"At mid-year, we were behind in the standings," said Drueding. "As the defending team, that made me pause and wonder, 'Could we make it back or were we one-hit wonders?' Although, we've always been just a little bit better in the spring than fall."
Friday's team classes belonged to Stanford University and coach Vanessa Bartsch. In back-to-back equitation performances that left Stanford not to be underestimated, Eliza Richartz won Walk/Trot and Victoria Greenen won Walk/Trot/Canter, putting the West Coast team en route to the 20 points overall that earned them the 2013 Collegiate Cup reserve title.
Smooth Sailing For Reich in USEF/Cacchione Cup
Cori Reich, who qualified last year for the Cacchione Cup but didn't earn a ribbon, has spent her senior year at Centenary College (NJ) redoubling her efforts under coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark.
"We're very excited for Cori," said Clark and Dowling. "Her goal this year was the Cacchione Cup. She did tons of no-stirrup work and rode daily."
Reich added, "I came to Harrisburg as an individual rider just for the Cacchione Cup. After riding in it last year, I spent this season determined to be better prepared. Heather and Michael have been great. I was too aggressive last time, so I smoothed out my riding."
In front of judges Anne and Bobby Braswell, Reich earned 84.25 points over fences on "experienced equitation horse" Parker, and a 90 on the flat with "fantastic draw," King, for a decisive final total of 174.25 points. The reserve champion, with 169 points overall, was Skidmore's Collegiate Cup game changer, Flavia D'Urso.
"This was the one show where I had no idea how things would go," said Reich. "I just happened to draw a good horse in the last phase. Parker is a Centenary horse, and one that I really wanted if I were lucky enough because I'm a tall rider and he's a big horse, so we match well. For the flat, I drew Centenary's King, and he was as fantastic as his draw description."
Reich will graduate with a degree in equine studies with a concentration in training and teaching. She sees a career with horses in her future.
"I want to be a show jumper. I've always looked up to (former Cacchione Cup champion) Beezie Madden. She's a great role model, for riders and for girls," said Reich.
D'Urso, a Skidmore senior originally from Chester, NJ, hopes to take her degree in psychology and art to New York City and "see what happens" as new paths emerge. While in the big city, she will have fond memories of her final IHSA Nationals.
"I've been with coach Ford for a long time, so I felt consistent and prepared. I was very lucky to get Centenary's Sean, who was super soft and forward, as my first-round draw. I was ready to put my best foot forward and, at the end of the day, it's up to the judges," she said.
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