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    May 7, 2022 Harrisburg, Pa. RSS |

    Senior Western rider Faith Dantona placed sixth out of 12 competitors in the Open Reining division —the highest showing for a Liberty University equestrian team member in program history — Saturday in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championships at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pa. 

    Dantona, who was named the Women’s Outstanding Performance winner at the April 27 Club Sports Choice Awards, was only the second Western rider to qualify for nationals, following in the steps of Erin Mays, who also competed in Harrisonburg in 2018. She saved her best collegiate showing for last.

    “Faith’s (sixth place) ribbon was the highest a Liberty rider has ever won at nationals in a competitive reining event,” said Hunt Seat Assistant Coach Kimi Counts, the Club Sports Female Team Assistant Coach of the Year at the Choice Awards. “She put down a strong, solid round in the arena.” 

    Juliana Gorena placed eighth out of 16 riders in Limit Equitation on the Flat and fellow senior rider Nadia Cooper placed 19th out of 24 competitors in the Cacchione Cup to highlight Liberty’s Hunt Seat equestrian team’s showing on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

    Complete results are available online.

    “This was the first time we have had more than one rider at nationals, and it was a very strong group that we brought,” Counts said. “We were happy we were able to bring all three and represent in a couple of different classes. All of their finishes were definitely the highlight of the weekend, seeing our riders get to nationals after not having it for three years (due to COVID-19).” 

    Cooper, who had placed fourth in the Zone 4 finals, just missing the Cacchione Cup cut, was an unexpected third representative for the Lady Flames after another Zone 4 rider who had qualified suffered a concussion and wasn’t able to compete. She became Liberty’s third Cacchione Cup competitor, following Liz Chenelle in 2017 and Amber Gayheart in 2019 

    Cooper scored a 71 over fences on Friday morning before scoring 80 on the flat that afternoon for a 151 total. 

    Sweet Briar College, which hosted and won the Region 4 Championship show, placed third overall in the Hunt Seat team standings.  

    “It’s a goal of ours to one day bring a complete team,” Counts said. 

    Dantona was able to attend her degree presentation on Thursday, while Gorena was planning to make it to the Main Commencement Ceremony on Friday evening but was unable to attend after inclement weather caused it to be moved up to the morning. 

    Counts noted that Gorena’s family showed up for her national performance instead. “It was a very strong showing and everyone was happy with how they finished. It was a good way for Jules and Faith to go out, and Nadia showed strongly all year. She was happy with how she did and is looking forward to riding with us again next year.” 

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer