Hunt Seat riders Reserve Champions, Western team third at fall semester’s final Region 4 shows
In an IHSA Region 4 show postponed from Oct. 2 by the remnants of Hurricane Ian, Liberty University’s Hunt Seat equestrian team finished as Reserve Champion out of seven teams in the region for the second time in the five shows this fall semester, on Saturday at Haverhill Farm in Ashland, Va., hosted by the University of Richmond.
As a team, Liberty scored 28 points to finish right behind Show Champion Christopher Newport University (29), tied with the University of Mary Washington (28), and finished one point in front of Sweet Briar College (27), which still leads the regular-season standings with 176 combined points. Liberty now ranks second with 136 points, ahead of the third-place College of William & Mary (133) and fourth-place Randolph-Macon College (130).
“The points were all pretty close, which shows how competitive the region really is,” Liberty Head Coach Suzanne Flaig said. “We are currently in second, behind only Sweet Briar, but by a good distance.”
With three more regular-season shows scheduled for the spring semester, Liberty had three individuals — senior Briley Boan and juniors Tristan Battin and Maggie Saunders — qualify for the Region 4 Championships, set for Feb. 25 at the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center.
“It was definitely a good showing and a good way to end the semester,” Flaig said. “A lot of the team is doing their best riding of the season right now. Richmond was a well-run show and they were gracious hosts, so it was enjoyable to compete in our regional community.”
Saunders placed first in Open Flat while sophomore Claire Hutchinson won the Limit Flat division and sophomore Mikaela Becker, also a member of the Lady Flames’ Western riding team, finished first in Introductory riding.
Battin placed second in Limit Flat while Briley Boan took second in Novice Flat and senior Ellie Bruss placed second in Limit Fences. Third-place finishers were sophomores John Hutchinson in Open Flat and Stephanie Russak in Novice Flat.
Going into the next show, set for Feb. 12 at Mary Washington, Liberty’s riders will look to improve on technique and form, and to continue to close the gap on RMC.
“We want to build upon what we have done so far,” Flaig said. “Those skills that they’re honing, they hopefully will continue to grow and improve their ability to compete, drawing upon their best performances and being comfortable in the moment, which isn’t always easy. As they get more experienced in shows, they become more comfortable under pressure.”
On Sunday, Liberty’s Western team closed out the semester by riding to a season-best third-place showing at a Region 4 event hosted by perennial favorite St. Andrews in Laurinburg, N.C.
The Lady Flames had three first-place performers, led by senior Vivian Renfroe who won Level One and also qualified for the Region 4 Championships, which are circled on the calendar for Feb. 18-19 at the same location. Senior Virginia Barnett, who tied for Reserve High Point Rider honors, finished first in Ranch Riding, as did junior Sarah Gagnon in Rookie B Horsemanship. Senior Morgan Fisk placed second in Level One Horsemanship while sophomore Abby Rice came in third in the Rookie B class and Amanda Mast finished third in Rookie A. Both Fisk and Mast previously qualified for nationals.
Liberty will host the next two IHSA Region 4 Western shows back-to-back on Jan. 28-29.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer