By Phelps Media Group/US Equestrian
Traverse City, Mich. – After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships (NAYC) presented by USHJA, made its debut in Traverse City, Michigan at Flintfields Horse Park. Despite inclement weather, children and pre-junior athletes rallied together for an exciting day of individual qualifying events Wednesday, August 11, each hopeful to emerge with individual and team medals at the conclusion of the week. It was a day for the United States at the forefront of the victory gallop as Jordan Gibbs (USA) rode away with the win in the Gotham North/FEI North American Children’s Jumping Championship Qualifier presented by USHJA aboard Douwe, while Mia Albelo (USA) piloted Cocominka EST to first-place honors in the Gotham North/FEI North American Pre-Junior Jumping Championship Qualifier presented by USHJA. Today’s competition counted toward each team’s overall score.
Gotham North/FEI North American Children’s Jumping Championship Qualifier presented by USHJA
Kicking off competition strong for Zone 8, Gibbs and Mountain King Ranch LLC’s Douwe, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, received the top honors in the Children’s First Individual Qualifier. Led by Chef d’Equipe Susan Hutchinson, the 14-year-old athlete stopped the timers in 55.64 seconds without knocking any rails, earning an early lead as the sixth combination to try their hand at the track.
“I am not going to lie; I was a little nervous before I walked the course. I have never competed in a big ring like this, but when I started walking the course, my nerves calmed down a lot,” shared Gibbs. “I have always wanted to do this. This has been a dream for a long time, and when I got the chance to do the Children’s Team this year, I was overwhelmed with excitement!”
Fifteen remaining pairs would try to unseat Gibbs from her lead. While all would put forth their best efforts, none were fast enough to overtake the pair’s speedy time without accruing faults along the way. Her success on the first day of competition was no mistake, however, with Gibbs crediting her faithful partner for teaching her so much in just two years together.
“My brother Dominic [Gibbs] rode [Douwe] for two years before me, and I started riding him at Tryon Fall last year during the [Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals]. I was doing the .85m Jumpers, so it was obviously a big step down for him, but he has taken care of me the whole way, and he is teaching me a lot. I love him!”
While Gibbs’s win was a confidence boost heading into Thursday’s competition, she recognized her need to stay focused as she heads into the Nations Cup format Children’s Team Competition. There, Gibbs will continue to ride for Zone 8 and put her best foot forward once again to garner valuable points with her sights set on the team podium positions.
“It is a great feeling [to win the first day], but I know tomorrow I have to pull it together and become collected. Tomorrow is Nation’s Cup style, so it is a team event with two rounds where you really just want to go clear and have solid rides. I am excited for tomorrow, but I need to pull it together and keep my nerves down,” Gibbs explained.
Sliding into the second-place position was the United States’ Reagan Tomb, who rode Elba, an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare jointly owned by herself and Greg Tomb, to a clear-round time of 57.21 seconds. Mexico ultimately claimed the third-place position on zero faults and a time of 59.41 seconds from Emily Cinnamon Alvarez Beltran and Alizee Imperiale, an 11-year-old Selle Francais mare owned by Lauren Gonzales.
Gotham North/FEI North American Pre-Junior Jumping Championship Qualifier presented by USHJA
Emerging victorious in the Gotham North/FEI North American Pre-Junior Jumping Championship Qualifier presented by USHJA was Mia Albelo riding her very own Cocominka EST. Though Albelo and the 10-year-old Rheinlander mare have only been partnered since February, Albelo brings two years of FEI NAYC experience with her to Traverse City, having previously competed as a child competitor in 2018. She narrowly edged out her competition Wednesday afternoon, navigating the fastest clear time around Alan Wade’s (IRL) 12-obstacle course to finish in 59.19 seconds.
On her plan, Albelo commented, “The plan was just to go in, be quick, but not let the cat out of the bag and to keep [Cocominka EST] ready for tomorrow. It ended up being the fastest time, and I am just so happy with that. My horse is jumping great and turning great, and she was just really good today.”
Though her partnership with “Coco” is still new, Albelo has already seen success aboard her sixteenth birthday present. She explained, “She has taken me to some of my bigger classes. I did my first high-junior class at [the Winter Equestrian Festival], and they set pretty big there, and she just took me around like a champ. We’ve done a few high-junior classes, and she has been the best partner and teacher as well. She has really given me a lot of confidence with the bigger fences.”
Albelo spoke highly of her past experience competing on an FEI NAYC team, saying, “I think the concept of having a Nations Cup team format for the up-and-coming youth is one of the best ideas. It’s such a special opportunity, and we really don’t get that anywhere else.”
Albelo is representing Zone 4, training under the guidance of Chef d’Equipe Kim Land. When she is not competing at FEI NAYC, she rides under the tutelage of show jumping legend Margie Engle. Albelo said, “I train with Margie Engle, and I have been training with her since I was about 12 years old. She has been the best coach, best mentor, and role model. One day I hope to be like her and represent the United States on an even bigger platform.”
The United States claimed the top three spots Wednesday afternoon, with Alexa Elle Lignelli and Girl Scout, a 10-year-old KWPN mare owned by Hampton Green Farm LLC, taking home second place just behind Albelo in 59.51 seconds. Ava Meyers and Myers Family Investments, LLC’s 12-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, Chico P, were hot on their heels, rounding out the top on a time of 59.67 seconds.