Lady Flames riders surprise Tournament of Champions field
Riding in its first national level competition, Liberty University's Hunter Seat women's equestrian team earned a spot in the final awards ceremony at Saturday's 25th annual Tournament of Champions Preseason Classic, hosted by Goucher College in Baltimore.
This weekend, the Lady Flames' equestrian teams will open their respective seasons at two locations. Eight Hunter Seat riders will travel to Baltimore for a Saturday and Sunday show featuring elite-level competition in the Tournament of Champions Preseason Classic, an invitational hosted by Goucher College.
The Lady Flames finished eighth out of 16 teams with 20 points, behind two-time defending IHSA national champion and Tournament of Champions Series winner Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD's Gold team, 45 points) and two Virginia colleges — reserve champion Randolph (38) and third-place Bridgewater (30). Mount Holyoke (Mass.) College's first team won a tie-breaker with host Goucher for fourth place (27 points each) and its second team edged Liberty for seventh place with 21. SCAD's Black team finished sixth with 24.
The Lady Flames finished ahead of some perennial national powers, including Penn State, Delaware, Connecticut, and West Virginia, as well as Emory & Henry, another up-and-coming Virginia program.
Besides SCAD's Gold team and Bridgewater, Liberty was the only team to win a ribbon in all 10 riding classes. The Lady Flames' high point winners were both freshmen — Amber Gayheart, who placed second in Intermediate Fences, and Bailey Boan, who finished runner-up in Walk Trot Canter.
Liberty also got low ribbons from senior captain Liz Chenelle (Open Flat), sophomore Kendall Burdette (Intermediate Flat and Open Fences), Gayheart (Novice Flat), junior Zoe Leppke (Novice Fences), and sophomore Anna Davidson (Walk Trot). Freshmen Hannah Sensing and April Simmonds represented Liberty in the Low and High Medals, but failed to advance to the final medal round.
The Lady Flames travel to the University of Richmond this Saturday to open the IHSA regular season in their first year competing in Region 4.
This past Saturday and Sunday, Liberty's Western team traveled to Laurinburg, N.C., to compete in its first regular-season show hosted by St. Andrews University, the defending IHSA Western national champion.
With only four returning riders and six newcomers, the Lady Flames got off to a rocky start before sophomore Anya DeVan, who rode for the Hunter Seat team last year, claimed a first-place ribbon in Intermediate Horsemanship II. Senior team captain Kayla Sims also placed third in Open Horsemanship.
On Sunday, freshmen Rebecca Oldham and Erin Mays, DeVan and fellow sophomore Leah Ofalt, and junior co-captain Avonlea Kisner all scored points, leading to a third-place overall finish for the day. Kisner was the top Liberty rider with a third-place showing in Open Reining.
The Lady Flames will next compete Nov. 5 at a show co-hosted by North Carolina State and Martin Community College in Williamston, N.C.