Jayne Claire Vincent, Campus Carrier assistant sports editor
This past weekend Berry’s Equestrian team competed in three shows, including one on Saturday and two on Sunday.
The Vikings placed third in the Hunt Seat show at the University of Georgia (UGA), second in the first western show on Sunday at KTR Farms, and came in first at the western show hosted at Gunby Equine Center at Berry.
Last year the team won regionals to go to the semi-finals but was defeated in the semi-finals. This year, Head Coach Margaret Ellington believes the team has the potential to go all the way to nationals.
“I think that if we amp it up a little bit, we can make a run for the top spot in both disciplines,” Ellington said.
Unfortunately, the team’s training started off late this year due to some health issues with Berry’s horses.
However, thankfully the issues have been resolved, and the team was able to start competing in October. So far, the team has collectively competed in five shows, Hunt Seat has competed in two and Western in three. The team continues to improve after each show.
Hunt Seat placed fifth out of ten at their first competition at Mississippi State University (MSU), where Western placed first in their discipline.
With the combination of shows, team workouts, lessons, freerides, meetings and other miscellaneous events, it takes commitment and dedication to be on the team.
This year, the team has welcomed nine recruits, including team members who were recruited before and after the semester began. Junior Joyce Evelyn Beall is grateful that the team members have blended well and are more cohesive.
“Even though there are a lot of new recruits, everyone seems to be fitting into the team culture really well,” Beall said.
After this past weekend, all the new team members have competed in at least one show, obtaining some experience. Ellington also believes that this year’s team has created a supportive and solid environment.
“What sets us apart from other teams is the support that we give each other and to the other teams,” Ellington said.
One reason why the team has bonded so well together is due to the fact that they are all of the same mindset when it comes to standards as a teammate. At one of their first team bonding meetings, all the teammates decided on what factors and characteristics they want to have in a teammate would be.
“It creates sportsmanship and a family feel,” Ellington said.
Within the team, they have an upperclassman assigned to each new recruit which has also helped to bond the team together. The only sophomore recruit, Axa Stevens, is very happy that she was welcomed onto the team.
“Everyone has been very kind and helpful while adjusting to being on the team,” Stevens said. “It has been a great experience thus far.”
This Friday the team is hosting a recruiting day in hopes of building onto the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) team. Since the team recently joined the NCEA’s single division, Berry’s Hunt Seat will now be competing against other division three schools rather than only competing against division one and two horse club teams within the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).
Ellington plans on integrating both the riders on the NCEA team into the IHSA so that they will have more opportunities to compete.
The first NCEA show the team will compete in will be on March 3, in Virginia to compete against three other schools within the NCEA.
The team still has four IHSA shows left to compete in Hunt Seat and three more for IHSA Western shows. Unlike other Berry sports teams, the equestrian team competes both in the fall and spring semesters. While this past weekend was their last show for the fall, they will be back competing in late January through February. After February is when they enter the post-season with regionals, semi-finals and nationals.
The team looks forwards to competing in the spring next semester, since they will be hosting western regionals at Berry on Feb. 18.