Hunt Seat rider Cooper earns High Point Rider honors in opening Region 4 show
Led by senior Nadia Cooper’s High Point Rider performance in the Open division, Liberty University’s Hunt Seat equestrian team opened IHSA Region 4 competition with a first-place team finish at a show hosted by the College of William & Mary on Sunday at Willow Pond Farm in Toano, Va. Its first-place total of 38 points eclipsed the host Tribe and Randolph Macon College, which tied for second with 34.
“We had a good point total, demonstrating our consistency in competitors throughout all of our divisions,” Liberty Director of Equestrian Programs and Hunt Seat Head Coach Suzanne Flaig said. “We had solid performances with minimal mistakes.”
Cooper earned first place in the Open Fences competition and second in Open Flat. To break a four-way tie, Cooper won a ride-off on the flat with competitors from Mary Washington and co-Reserve Team Champions Randolph College and William & Mary for her first High Point Rider recognition in the open division, the highest division. She will now be eligible to compete for the Cacchione Cup, with the rider with the most points after the eight regular-season shows advancing out of the region to the Zone 4 competition as Amber Gayheart did in 2019 and Liz Chenelle did in 2017.
Three freshmen men’s riders joined Liberty’s team this year and experienced auspicious debuts competing among women at the collegiate level, with Tristan Battin finishing first in the Limit Flat division and John Hutchinson taking first-place honors in Intermediate Flat. Noah Smalls also rode for the Flames in Intermediate Flat and Intermediate Fences.
For the Lady Flames, junior captain Juliana Gorena captured a blue ribbon in Limit Flat while Ellie Bruss rode to a second-place showing in Novice Flat and Amanda Mast placed second in Introductory riding.
Liberty’s Western and Hunt Seat teams will both be in action this weekend with 10 Western riders traveling to St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C., to make its season debut on Saturday and Sunday against the perennial Region 4 front-running Knights as well as North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, and regional newcomers Clemson and Lander (S.C.) On Sunday, the Hunt Seat team will ride at Sweet Briar College in nearby Amherst, Va.
“The Western team has a lot of new riders, and last year, they didn’t compete because of COVID, so even for the second-year riders, it will still feel very new,” Flaig said. “Everybody is excited and we feel very blessed to be able to show and compete. We’re just trying to focus on getting better every week. Each show is its own, so you have to continue to perform.”
Liberty’s Hunt Seat team will host a Region 4 show over Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 9 and again in February prior to regional, zone, and national competitions in the spring semester.