University of Kentucky Wildcats Win USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships at VHT International, Auburn University Earns Coveted Spirit Award

University of Kentucky celebrates a win for the Wildcats. Photo by Claire Kelley.

Throughout the history of the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships, the University of Kentucky has competed every year and fought hard for the Wildcats of Lexington. On Sunday, UK earned its first Championship title at the 2021 edition during the VHT International at the Virginia Horse Center.

The team of Cosby Green, Ivie Cullen-Dean, Caroline Dannemiller, and Abbey O’Day posted a team score of 94.41, winning by just over 2.0 penalty points. Cullen-Dean finished second individually in Open Beginner Novice Horse with her brand new ride Redfield Lorimer. Green won Training Horse A with McCreary, earning the team’s best individual score of 30.0. Dannemiller and Fernhill Dreaming finished third in Modified B.

“I think this is the biggest team we’ve ever had,” Cullen-Dean said. “It’s just the best atmosphere. Walking up and down the aisle you’re always saying good luck and have fun or they’re saying it back to you.”

When it came to how to best structure UK’s eight teams, O’Day explained, “We looked mostly over our records from last year to this year because this year we didn’t get to come out a lot. We looked at the scores between each other and stacked our teams in certain ways so we could help each other the most.”

University of Georgia team rider Madison McCauley gallops across the country with her teammates cheering her on in the background. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Finishing second in the team competition was the University of Georgia Red Team. UGA brought two teams of three to the Championships and both finished in the ribbons.

“We’re so honored to have two teams here,” said Sierra Schurtz, a psychology and criminal justice major at UGA. She finished fourth individually in Open Novice riding Zach Eyed Pea. “We weren’t allowed to compete leading up to [VHT]. This is the only competition we were allowed to compete at because COVID rules got lifted. It feels great to come out and kill it.”

The Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets were the overnight leaders on Saturday, but unfortunate penalties in show jumping dropped them down to third place on a score of 98.99. The competition was incredibly close, with fewer than five penalty points separating the top three.

In the Graduate division, reserved for current graduate students as well as 2020 seniors who missed out on the Championships due to COVID-19, a scramble team from James Madison University (Amelia Bayer), University of Kentucky (Macy Clark) and Virginia Tech (Makenzie Krason) took top honors.

The coveted Spirit Award was hard fought this year. The students pulled out all the stops to show their school spirit and exhibit teamwork. Ultimately, the panel of judges who observed the students throughout the week named Auburn University the winners of the Spirit Award. This team not only supported each other but fellow competitors from other schools, too. They also put in volunteer hours for the event.

“We wanted to represent Auburn and what Auburn stands for and be excited to be with other schools that are here,” Stephanie Lambert said.

The winners of the Spirit Award receive a refund on their entry fees, not to mention bragging rights. While Auburn won the Championship in 2018 and 2019, this is their first time taking home the Spirit Award.

A friend congratulates Morgyn Johnson and Peter Parker GS after the double-clear show jumping that helped Randolph-Macon College to third place. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Randolph-Macon College also put in a strong showing for the Spirit Award, volunteering for the event as jump judges and assisting in setting up a show jumping course. VHT Organizer Andy Bowles decided to award Randolph-Macon with partial refunds on their entries in recognition of their team spirit and dedication to the sport.

“For me, the Spirit Award gets to the heart of the sport and its foundation in volunteerism, sportsmanship, and horsemanship,” Bowles said. “The Intercollegiate program and championships are a great example of the qualities that make this sport great. These students are the future of the sport and they are setting the example for the next generation. We truly enjoy hosting the Intercollegiate Championships at VHT and look forward to their return.”

The 2022 Intercollegiate Championships will take place at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, GA before returning to VHT in 2023.

Daniel Clasing and Olney Uncle Sam, winners of the CCI3*-L. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Looking to individual FEI placings, all four overnight leaders jumped double-clear to win their respective divisions. Daniel Clasing and Olney Uncle Sam took home top honors in the CCI3*-L. Liz Halliday-Sharp won the CCI2*-L (A) with Shanroe Cooley. Christina Henriksen and CIERRA commanded the CCI2*-L (B) from start to finish. Finally, Liz Messaglia and Greenfort Carnival bested the CCI1*-L.