Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stanford Wins 7th Consecutive Zone Finals

On April 7 and 8, Stanford hosted the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 8 Finals at the Stanford Red Barn. Over the two days of competition, 90 of the top equestrian athletes from 28 teams across the West Coast competed on the flat and over fences in individual and team classes.


The team competition featured the Regional Champion team from each of Zone 8's five regions including Stanford (Region 1), University of Southern California (Region 2), Oregon State (Region 3), University of Montana (Region 4), and University of Colorado (Region 5). While Stanford has clinched the Zone Championship the last six years, the Zone has seen strong performances by a number of teams including Colorado (Res. Champion in '11), Oregon (Res. Champion in '10), and USC (Res. Champion in '09). In addition, Stanford's 2012 post season team, made up of Claire Margolis, Alison Smith, Justine Thomas, Erin Gray, Morgan Abbett, Sarah Jacobson, and Wei Ling Heng, is a young team with only one senior (Thomas) and three freshmen (Margolis, Gray, and Heng).

Junior Alison Smith wins Team Intermediate Fences on Freddy
The Team competition kicked off with junior Alison Smith in the irons for the Cardinal in Team Individual Fences. Smith drew Freddy (registered name, Fresno), a 10 year old Hanoverian donated to Stanford by the Tyrrell family on the Thursday before the competition. Though not familiar with Freddy, Smith put down a smooth round and bested the competition with the first team win of the day.

Freshman Erin Gray following her win in Team Novice Flat

Senior Justine Thomas was the first Stanford flat rider to compete in the team competition. Fresh off her exciting win in Individual Novice Fences on Bill (loaned to Stanford for the weekend by Toni Venza), Justine drew Luke (Nio Lux) and took 2nd place, putting another 5 points on the board for the Cardinal. Freshman Erin Gray was up next in the team competition, making her first postseason appearance in Novice Flat. With a wonderful ride, Gray took a blue ribbon and kept Stanford in first place. Freshman Wei Ling Heng, hailing from Malaysia, finished Saturday's team classes with another red in Walk Trot.

Freshman Claire Margolis in Team Open Fences
On Sunday it was freshman Claire Margolis who kicked things off for the Cardinal with her ride in Team Open Fences. Though Stanford came into the day with a 4 point lead, Margolis dominated in both Open Fences and Flat, pulling in back-to-back wins. Not to be left behind, sophomore Morgan Abbett (English team captain) stepped up in Novice Fences and took a first. Making it a clean sweep for the day, sophomore Sarah Jacobson rounded out a perfect Sunday finish with the Cardinal's 4th win, securing the greatest total points for any team in the country at a 2012 Zone Finals.

Sophomore Morgan Abbett in Team Novice Fences on Toby

Final hunt seat team totals, with the top two teams advancing to IHSA Nationals: Stanford University (2012 Zone 8 Champion) 52; University of Colorado at Boulder (Reserve) 32; Oregon State University 31; University of Southern California 27, and University of Montana Western 26.

Senior Justine Thomas in Individual Novice Fences on Bill


The Zone final individual classes, made up of the 10 regional champions and reserve champions from each of the five regions, feature some of the most competitive riding. Thomas (who has ridden for Stanford at the '09 and '10 national finals, including three ribbons in '10) took the Cardinal's only individual championship of the Zone finals with a win in Novice Fences, but senior Erica Keenan (who rode for the Cardinal at the '10 national finals in the same class) was also a nationals qualifier with a reserve championship in Walk Trot Canter, starting her ride on Jack before making the work-off (and a horse swap).

Margolis competed on Saturday (on Nio Lux and Kandinsky) and took a pair of 4ths in Individual Open Flat and Fences. Senior Rachel Kolb (who competed at the '10 and '11 national finals for Stanford) also won back-to-back 4ths in Individual Fences and Flat riding Monty and Auzzie, making the work-off on the flat. Senior Maddy Sessions, also a national finals competitor (in '10) finished with Stanford's fifth individual white ribbon with some strong no-stirrup riding in the work-off on Toby.

In addition to the hunt seat Zone Finals, before spring break sophomores Alina Benavides and Laura Benard traveled to Findlay, OH for the Western Semifinals. Benavides had a strong ride in Walk Jog and finished in the top twenty. Benard finished in the top four of her first heat, making the work-off and taking 8th in Advanced.

Sr. Kate Erickson is first up in Stanford's Nationals race with an appearance at the IDA (Dressage) National Finals at Centenary College on April 28 and 29 in New Jersey.

Then Stanford will send eight riders to the IHSA National Finals, May 3-6 in Raleigh, North Carolina, including:
Freshman Claire Margolis (CA): Team Open Fences, Team Open Flat and Cacchione Cup/High Point Rider medal finals
Senior Justine Thomas (WA): Team Intermediate Flat, Individual Novice Fences
Junior Alison Smith (LA): Team Intermediate Fences
Sophomore Morgan Abbett (CA): Team Novice Fences
Freshman Erin Gray (CA): Team Novice Flat
Senior Erica Keenan (PA): Individual Walk Trot Canter
Sophomore Sarah Jacobson (MA): Team Walk Trot Canter
Freshman Wei Ling Heng (Malaysia): Team Walk Trot