Mill Spring, N.C.- July 7, 2018 – The 2018 USHJA Zones 3 & 4 Jumper Team Championships took center stage at the Tryon International Equestrian Center’s George H. Morris Stadium from July 5-7, 2018. Over three days, riders competed in both individual and team competition vying for championship medals and top honors at the facility that will host the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Mill Spring, North Carolina. The world-class property is expanding on a daily basis.
Thursday, July 5, kicked off the Championships with the official jog, riders meeting and Round 1, the Individual Qualifier. As participants in the Championships, competitors are now recognized as 2018 USHJA Emerging Jumper Riders. During a special orientation session at the riders meeting, riders, trainers and parents received comprehensive information about how riders can advance through the sport to its highest levels. US Equestrian Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer discussed the Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, a joint USHJA-US Equestrian effort that identifies and nurtures Jumping athletes as they advance through the sport to enhance future success for Olympic and international teams representing the United States.
First Individual Qualifying Class
Competition began on Thursday with the First Individual Qualifying Class, which is run under Table II Section I, Faults + Time; scores from this class are the base score for the individual competition.
The 1.30m/1.35m Junior/Amateur section was first to go. Seventeen-year-old Jordan Hill and Diador Von Der Heide were the only pair to go clean over the Alan Wade-designed course in 76.834 seconds to win the class. Riders earning second through sixth were faster on course but each had one or two rails. From Wellington, FL, Hill represented Zone 4.
Galloping in next was the Amateur section at the 1.20/1.25m height. The pair from Zone 3, Jenna Buchan and Cadell, were impressive as the fastest of nine to go clean in 61.067 to take the victory gallop. From Williamsburg, VA, Buchan was over three seconds faster second place Allyson Blais riding Landanima in 64.584.
Of the five who went clean against the clock in the Junior 1.20/1.25m section another Zone 3 rider took the victory gallop, fifteen-year-old Beverly Alcock. From Philmont, VA, Alcock and Arko were fastest in 61.42 with Zone 4 rider Mia Albelo and Cassandra Dreams coming in second by just over a second in 62.454.
The 1.10/1.15m Adults were next to compete in the George H. Morris Stadium. Of the seventeen competitors who completed the course, Stephanie King and Co-Starr were quick and clean in 50.466. King was over two seconds faster than second place finisher Sarah Thompson aboard Carignan. From Saint Augustine, FL, King rides for Zone 4.
Zone 4’s Erin Eccelstone piloted Believe to the win in the 1.10/1.15m Children’s section, clean in 54.816. Crossing the timers in 55.152, Julia Ziffer and Ultimate were a close second.
Team Day! Zones 3 & 4 Jumpers Team Up
Frirday, July 6, marked the team competition, which is run as a Table II Modified Nations Cup Format with two identical tracks. With clean rounds clinching gold medals, zones switching victories, and the final two sections jumping off for medals, there was definitely a buzz of competitive camaraderie filling the air. The hot and humid weather broke with a big rain storm in the late afternoon, stopping the show for a rain delay. The cooler weather that followed led to some hot competition! Riders from each section navigated the Alan Wade-designed courses, ideal tracks for the two-rounds. The teams with the fewest faults at the end of both rounds were dressed with gold medals, neck sashes, ribbons and championship coolers. Sashes, ribbons and medals were also given to silver and bronze teams.
Competitive yet compassionate, Zone 3 Team Chefs d’Equipe Tracy Magness, Sandra Ruiz and Brooke Kemper and Zone 4 Chefs d’Equipe Megan Thiel and Shawn Russell were ringside to give encouragement and high-fives.
The misty morning welcomed the 1.30/1.35m section of Amateurs. Zone 3’s Sarah Turner, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Katlynn Butler, of Mechanicsville, Virginia, both turned in double clean rounds to help clinch the gold medal, which ultimately was awarded to Zone 3, Team 2. The team consisted of three riders: Turner, Butler and Judy Sutton. In silver was the Zone 3 Team 1 of Abby Grabowski, Hanna Toering, Jocelyn Albaugh and Kristin Glover. Bronze went to the Zone 4 Team 1 of Olivia Epple, Kiersten Sudlow and Jordan Hill.
The 1.20/1.25m Amateur Section demanded consistency as each of the five teams only had three members. Gold went to the team who lowered the height of two jumps or less in either round, with a total score of 16 faults. This time the Zone 4 team of Amanda Benedict, Cathy Reed and Susan Fried stood at the top of the podium with gold. Zone 3 Team 1 took silver and included Angela Pollex, Rebecca Bergman and Kara Jones. In bronze was Zone 4 Team 1 with riders Christina Couper, Danielle Amico and Sierra Abner.
Of the teams who medaled gold and silver in the 1.20/1.25m section, both had only three members and both had two riders go double clean. A score of just 6 faults earned gold for Zone 3, Team 2. Sisters Nancy and Beverly Alcock joined Thea Bitar to form the gold medal trio. In silver were Cayman Szegda, Brooke Pearson and Mia Albelo who made up Zone 4 Team 2. Earning bronze were Zone 3 Team 1 riders Addison Reed, Taylor Herzog, Kacey Murphy and Fallyn Belcastro.
With eight rounds remaining in round 2 of the Adults section, the skies opened up and the show went on hold. The fantastic footing and expert arena grooming allowed riders to return to the hotly contested battle within a few minutes after the storm that finished in a three-way tie for medais. Third to go in the jump-off, Sarah Thompson needed a fault-free round to claim gold for her team. And she delivered. Thompson joined Lynn Burnett, Nora Zimmett and Phoebe Alwine of Zone 4, Team 2 on the top of the podium. In silver were Zone 4 Team 2 riders Phoebe Alwine, Nora H. Zimmett, Lynn Burnett and Sarah Thompson. In bronze were Zone 4 Team 1 riders Eileen O’Leary, Cynthia Screnci, Samantha Shinn and Stephanie King.
After five 1.10/1.15m Children’s teams competed over two rounds, the results were quite close. Once again three teams tied for medal contention, all with a score of 4 faults. The two teams who tied for 4th overall each only had 8 faults. Exciting until the final jump-off round, Isabella Durnell turned in the fastest clean ride to take the gold for Zone 4, Team 1. Celia Cram, Hope King, Jack Dengler and Durnell celebrated a sweet victory. In silver were Zone 3 Team 1 riders Maya Aryal, Ryleigh Threatt, Haley Barnes and Julia Ziffer. In bronze were Zone 4 Team 2 riders Cali Wester, Natasia Caldwell, Erica Roberts and Erin Ecclestone.
“I think this program is just fantastic, for both the kids and the amateurs that join. They become friends, and they learn about the upper level of our sport, they learn how it’s structured and what’s supposed to happen between a jog and a Nations Cup format. They learn how to have camaradarie, and sportsmanship,” said Zone 4 Chef D’Equipe Megan Thiel, who played an active role in every aspect of the Championships.
“I have had riders come up and tell me that this is the best championship they’ve ever been involved in, and they would definitely come back,” noted Zone 3 Chef D’Equipe, Tracy Magness. “We hope that’s the experience that they’re having, a good team experience. One competitor came up to me and told me that she’d met her teammates and they’re now going to be friends for life, so that’s the other part of it – it’s not only about riding, both zones are meeting each other, and hopefully they’re making friends that they can keep.”
On the final day of competition, world renowned course designer Alan Wade set a tough but rideable track for the field he had observed over the two previous days. The top scoring 1.30/1.35m riders took to the course first. With a tight time allowed, Amateur rider Katlynn Butler aboard Guidance turned in the best score, leaving all the jumps in the cups but picking up 3 time faults. Adding the 3 to her one rail score from Thursday gave Butler a total of 7 faults and the gold. Sarah Thompson on her Acolina R earned Silver, and Kristin Glover rode Constantine to bronze.
“I competed last year in the 1.20m section, and we were team silver, and I finished 7th individually,” explained Butler, who is one semeseter away form completing her Associates Degree. “These championships were a goal for this year. I’m looking forward to the Gold Star Clinic. I did the Richard Spooner one as a Wild Card entry, and I just really want to go to the clinics again and again!”
Butler also wanted to add, “I just want to thank Dorrie Douglas with MTM for helping me, and everyone at USHJA for putting on a great competition, it’s been fabulous!”
The 1.20/1.25m Amateur section had four riders within one rail of one another coming into the Individual Championship round on day three. It came down to the two who were fault-free throughout the three days, with gold going to the pair with a faster time on day one, Allyson Blais and Landanima. Also clean in all rounds, Jennie Edwards and LB Carwyn were silver. With a final score of 4, Susan Fried and Donnatello finished in the bronze position.
“This is my first championship and I loved it. I think the team event was incredible, it’s nice to be part of a team and cheering your competitors on. I like that you have three consecutive days to redeem yourself if something goes wrong, and it’s nice to have something to work towards. It’s fun but still very competitive,” noted Blais, who rides in Wellington, Florida, with Alan Korotkin.
The 1.20/1.25m Junior section followed, with six riders heading into the final day with 4 faults or less. In a unique pressure situation with a challenging course, this test was exactly what these developing riders need to learn the trials and tribulations of top competition. This is the pathway, and, win or lose, each of these juniors grew from the experience. Coming into the round sitting second, twelve-year-old Mia Albelo and Cassandra Dreams finished with a four fault score, and the lead, when Beverly Alcock entered the ring aboard Arko. Having a touch of trouble on the track, Alcock accumulated a number of faults, and Albelo took the gold. Silver went to sixteen-year-old Fallyn Belcastro and Quebec Star, with a final score of 8 faults. And bronze to Cayman Szegda riding Kira Van De Vaartdijk ending on a score of 12 faults.
“These championships were really amazing” said Albelo. “I wanted to thank USHJA for putting this all together, and giving us the opportunity to do team competition, and preparing us for larger shows. And I want to thank my trainers for preparing me for this, and sticking with me, and to thank my parents, for supporting me and all my dreams, and of course, thanks to Cassie, for being the most perfect horse that I could ever ask for, and our Chefs d’Equipe, for helping and for telling us how it is, and where to go, and everything we need to know!”
Knowing that Paris will be hosting the Olympics in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028, Albelo has her sights on the pathway to the top. Her next step is the North American Youth Championships in Old Salem, New York this August.
The hotly contested 1.10/1.15m Adult section had six riders with fault-free scores going into the final day. With three of the six going clean, it came down to the times in Thursday’s Individual Qualifier to determine the gold, silver and bronze medalists. As Thursday’s winner, Stephanie King and Co-Starr took home the gold. Sidney Madden rode Urbanus to silver and Sara Williamson finished with a bronze riding Den Dekker.
King spoke highly of Co-Starr, known as ‘Ringo’ in the barn, the experience and her trainers. “He jumped fantastic all three days, and my team was awesome. It’s such a great experience, to get to know some of the other riders and to have that dynamic, where you’re rooting for each other, instead of just for yourself,” she said. “Ringo has been awesome, definitely the horse-of-a-lifetime! I’ve been riding with Brooke and Chad Watridge for almost three years now. They’re like the dynamic duo of trainers, I couldn’t thank them enough for the success we’ve had.”
The final section to compete in the Individual Championships, the 1.10/1.15m Children’s, had seven riders with four faults or less. Clean over the track, Erin Ecclestone and Believe, finished with a score of 4 faults that she picked up in Round 1 of the Team Competition. Julia Ziffer and Ultimate came in with a perfect score, but dropped a single rail in the final round. With a faster time in Thursday’s Individual Qualifier by just .34 seconds, Ecclestone edged out Ziffer for the gold. Ryleigh Threatt and Alladin V earned bronze.
Ecclestone rides with Alan Korotkin and was pleased to achieve this goal. “This is my first time at the Zone Championships. I thought it was a really great experience,” the seventeen-year-old commented. “I was a little hesitant about the team jumping, I wasn’t sure if everyone would get into it, but when it finally happened, I thought, ‘This is so much fun!'”
Individual gold medalists went home with Professional’s Choice Pro Performance Show Jumping Boots and championship coolers. The 1.10/1.15m Adult Amateur Jumper Individual gold medalist also received Parlanti paddock boots for her efforts.
In addition to medals, ribbons and more for their efforts, USHJA recognized all individual medalists as 2018 Gold Star Emerging Jumper Riders by awarding them an exclusive 2018 Gold Star Emerging Jumper Rider pin that can be worn at future competitions to distinguish them. At the same time, trainers of these riders were recognized as 2018 Gold Star Jumper Coaches and received specialized pins that denote their title. Riders and trainers who receive the designation are also invited to attend one of the Gold Star Clinics, which will be held on the East Coast at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Dec. 26-30, 2018, on the West Coast at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, Calif., Jan. 16-20, 2019, and new this year, a centrally located Gold Star Clinic at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio, April 16-20, 2019.
USHJA extends special thanks to JP Godard and the entire Tryon International Equestrian Center team for hosting the Championships. USHJA also thanks Zone 3 Chefs d’Equipe Brooke Kemper, Tracy Magness and Sandra Ruiz and Zone 4 Chefs d’Equipe Shawn Russell and Megan Thiel, who led the teams at the Championships.
For more information about the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships visit www.ushja.org/zonejumper. For more information about the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program visit www.ushja.org/emergingjumper.