Traverse City, Mich. – Sept. 17, 2021 – Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) competition came to a pinnacle in Traverse City Friday, September 17, as the fifth leg of the exciting tour saw its eight teams fight it out for a portion of the $6+ million dollars in prize money on offer throughout its 10 2021 events. In an intense race to the finish line through three nail-biting rounds of sport, it was Team Crusaders, consisting of Molly Ashe Cawley, Shawn Casady and Peter Leone, who stood atop the podium at the conclusion of the class.
The team competition format entails all three riders of the eight teams competing over the first round course to determine the top four teams who advance to the second round. The second round speed phase showcases two of the three-team members to jump their mounts once again. At the conclusion of the second round, teams sitting in the fourth and third position will then offer up their remaining team member for a jump-off to determine who will wear the bronze medal. The teams seated in the second and first position then send in their third rider to jump-off for the silver and gold medal honors.
Ireland’s Alan Wade fashioned the 12-effort first-round course for each member of all eight teams to take on. Coming in with confidence after taking home the win during the last competition of the Toronto leg of the tour, Team AIM United were the first to try their hand at the first-round course. However, teammates Andrew Welles (USA), Sydney Shulman (ISR), and Catherine Tyree (USA) would post an unfortunate 16 faults to the scoreboard with a combined time of 216.42 seconds. Road Runners were next on course, finishing their three rides in 218.98 seconds with only 8 faults to their names. Team Eye Candy followed soon after, posting 12 faults to the scoreboard in 222.79 seconds. Also on 12 faults were the Otomi Warriors, who completed the course in a combined 223.34 seconds. The Blazing 7s proved to be a force, only posting 4 faults in 224.65 seconds before the Diamond Devils made a spectacular effort with no faults across their team in 223.24 seconds. Rounding out the first-round competition, the Lucky Charms was forced to retire when one of their riders failed to complete the course, and the Crusaders narrowly nudged their way into the top four teams with a 12-fault finish in 221.13 seconds, making them the quickest of the 12-falters. At the conclusion of round one, Diamond Devils, Blazing 7s, Road Runners, and Crusaders were determined to move on to round two.
As each team made their way through the second round, the faults-converted speed phase made for a shakeup in the top teams. The Crusaders, represented by Leone and Casady, were first on course, posting a combined team time of 124.17 seconds with Casady’s four faults considered. The Road Runner’s Christian Heineking and Erin Davis-Heineking completed the course in a team time of 127.26 seconds with their 12 faults considered. Lauren Hough and Chandler Meadows were next to vie for a gold or bronze podium jump-off for the Blazing 7s. Hough and Meadows rolled two rails to the ground, putting them on a team total of 129.69 seconds. An unfortunate separation of horse and rider for the Diamond Devils left the team out of contention for the gold medal jump-off.
At the conclusion of round two, it was determined that the Diamond Devils and Blazing 7s would jump-off for bronze, while the Road Runners and Crusaders would jump-off for gold and silver. First in for the Diamond Devils, Kristen Vanderveen put the pedal to the metal, completing the course in 62.35 seconds with three seconds added for having the last rail down on course. Cara Raether Carey made her way into the arena, hoping to beat Vanderveen’s time to secure the bronze medal for her Blazing 7s. Two rails down on course, however, would result in a time of 65.89 seconds, lending the Diamond Devils the bronze medal position on the podium.
In the grand finale event, Team Road Runners and Crusaders laid it all on the line with one last effort separating who would wear gold and who would wear silver. Adrienne Sternlicht was first to show in representation of the Road Runners. Sternlicht turned and burned her way through the track, but rolled one rail to the ground to finish in a time of 58.99 seconds, leaving the door wide open for the Crusaders to take the lead. The final athlete to try their hand at the course was Cawley for the Crusaders. In one last valiant effort, Cawley galloped her way through the course, knocking one rail to even the playing field, but narrowly beating Sternlicht’s time to finish in 58.76 seconds with her faults considered, ultimately claiming the victory for the Crusaders and leaving the Road Runners in the silver medal position.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Peter Leone – Crusader team member
On Team Crusaders:
“Like we saw in the Olympics Games in Tokyo, no rider in our team had a discard so it was important to advance to the next round that everyone gave their best. It is cool with this format that you advance on a clean slate and Molly [Ashe Cawley] for the fourth time in a row, with team events that she has competed in, came in and gave the Crusaders the lift they needed to be on the podium. Molly was amazing.”
On Major League Show Jumping:
“We want to thank Keean White and Matt Morrissey, the creators and the two visionaries of this League. It is really special to have a team win at the American Gold Cup, which is so exciting and a time honored tradition.”
On the course:
“The course designer was Alan Wade and when you talk about the best designers in the world, his name always comes up. He really set true to his reputation. I thought that it was a challenging competition and it covered a lot of ground. The questions were subtle but there was only one triple clear team [from Team Diamond Devils] so that speaks for itself. Super job by Alan Wade, and I thought it was the best team course we have had so far.”
Molly Ashe Cawley – Crusader team member
On trying to best Adrienne Sternlicht’s third round:
“Although Adrienne [Sternlicht] had a pole down, she was really fast. Her time with the three seconds added was faster than anybody else’s time of the three riders that had already gone. I knew that she was fast and I knew that I was going to have to go fast without a rail down. I never really thought about if I had a rail down, how I was going to beat her. My jump-off did not go to plan, everything was coming up backwards. My turns were amazing considering I was going zero miles per hour. When my mare [Berdien] had the liverpool down, I just hit the turbo button and off we went. The mare really stepped up. She is such a good horse and she is always a fighter. I really owe this one to Berdien, because that was my rail and not hers. In the blink of an eye I nipped a little time off Adrienne, which was pure luck.”
On the courses:
“I thought that the first round was the most course that we have jumped in the entire Major League tour, which is appropriate being at the American Gold Cup, but it asked the most questions. The jump-off was surprisingly long, only 10-seconds shorter than the first round, which was a lot for the horses but I think they stepped up to the plate.”
Shawn Cassidy – Crusader team member
On Crusaders Team Camaraderie:
“Molly and I are both from Knoxville, Tennessee, and when I was 14 years old I actually spent some time at Peter’s farm and trained for a few days and rode some horses for him at a horse show so those were our existing relationships. Peter really loves to educate people and I respect how much he wants to give back to the sport. His enthusiasm throughout the first part of the team competitions has been awesome.”
On Alan Wade:
“What I really like about Alan Wade’s courses is that it does not really matter if your horse has a big step or is fast across the ground. The course is set for all different types of horses. My horse is a big mover so I can subtract strides out of the lines but there are also long gallops so if your horse was quick across the ground, you can win there.”