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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The second season of Southeastern Conference equestrian begins on Friday when No. 3 South Carolina plays host to No. 5 Kansas State in Blythewood, S.C. The Gamecocks are the defending SEC Champions, winning the first-ever league title a year ago.
Each of the four equestrian programs of the SEC are ranked among the nation’s top six, according to the NCEA preseason rankings, which were announced on Monday. Georgia is the nation’s top-ranked team in the preseason, while 2013 NCEA Overall Team National Champion Auburn checks in at No. 2. The Gamecocks are the nation’s third-ranked team, while Texas A&M is ranked No. 6.
Despite the SEC being in only its second season of sponsoring equestrian, the four programs that comprise the conference have a long and storied tradition of success. In fact, every NCEA Overall Team National Champion in the history of the sport has been won by a current member of the SEC.
Auburn opens its 2013-14 campaign on Sept. 28, Georgia begins its season on Sept. 29 and Texas A&M starts the year on Oct. 5. The first conference contest is Oct. 11 when South Carolina plays host to Georgia.
The 2013-14 campaign includes a significant change on the national scene as the NCEA Championships will feature just one overall team national champion, rather than separate championships for the hunter seat and western disciplines.
Equestrian became the SEC’s 21st sport in advance of the 2012-13 academic year.
SEC EQUESTRIAN QUICK NOTES
• The 2013-14 campaign marks the second season of Southeastern Conference sponsorship of the sport of equestrian. At the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., in 2012, the decision was made for equestrian to become the conference’s 21st sport.
• Four members of the SEC - Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M - currently sponsor equestrian. The four current members of the SEC are the only teams in the history of the sport to win NCEA Overall Team National Championships.
• South Carolina became the first-ever SEC Equestrian Champion in 2013, defeating Auburn 10-8 in the championship final hosted in Auburn, Ala.
• The 2014 SEC Equestrian Championships are slated to take place March 28-29 at One Wood Farm in Blythewood, S.C.
• Each SEC team will face every conference foe home and away during the regular season.
• Georgia has talled a league-leading five overall NCEA national championships, including three consecutive from 2008-10. Auburn has won three national titles, while South Carolina and Texas A&M each have two overall national titles to their credit.
• Auburn is the defending NCEA overall team national champion, defeating Georgia in a ride-off at the 2013 NCEA National Championships in Waco, Texas.
September 20 (Friday)
Kansas State at South Carolina (Blythewood, S.C.) - 10 a.m.
September 27 (Friday)
Fresno State at South Carolina (Blythewood, S.C.) - 2 p.m.
September 28 (Saturday)
Fresno State at Auburn (Auburn, Ala.) - 11 a.m.
September 29 (Sunday)
Fresno State at Georgia (Bishop, Ga.) - 10 a.m.
October 4 (Friday)
South Carolina at Delaware State (Dover, Del.) - 10 a.m.
October 5 (Saturday)
South Carolina vs. SMU (Dover, Del.) - 10 a.m.
Texas A&M at Kansas State (Manhattan, Kan.) - 11 a.m.
All times Eastern and subject to change.
NCEA RANKINGS (Sept. 16, 2013)
3. South Carolina
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas State
6. Texas A&M
8. South Dakota State
The Auburn equestrian team enters the 2013-14 season as the second-ranked team nationally coming off winning both the overall and hunt seat national titles. Auburn's three overall national championships are the second-most by a team in the sport's history, behind only Georgia. TheTigers return four All-Americans from the 2013 squad in Hunt seat riders, Elizabeth Benson, Rachel Lin and Jennifer Waxman, and western rider Stephanie Rucci. In addition, junior TCU transfer Demi Stiegler was a hunt seat All-American in 2013. True-freshman Elizabeth Benson and junior Jennifer Waxman posted a single-season record 12 wins in equitation over fences in 2013. She also posted the deciding victory in the ride-off for the overall national championship. On the western side, Cheyanne Cracraft also set a single-season best with her 12 wins in reining, tying All-American Indy Roper's 12 victories in 2012. With 12 wins in 2013, head coach Greg Williams registered the most wins in his storied 18-year career.
Coming off of its third-straight NCEA Reserve National Title, the Georgia equestrian team looks to carry that momentum into the 2013-14 season. Last season, the Bulldogs finished with an 8-4 regular season record before falling just short of reaching the programs sixth national title. The Bulldogs return 21 riders who were regulars in the lineup last season, including two All-Americans and six riders who earned a spot on an All-SEC team. Georgia also signed an impressive class this season, giving the Bulldogs talent and depth in every event. In Equitation Over Fences, the Bulldogs are led by senior All-American Olivia Dorey who finished last season with an 11-2 record. All-SEC selection Abby O’Mara returns after riding to a 9-6 regular season record that included two MOP honors. Sarah Milliren, who was an SEC All-Freshman Team member, returns for her sophomore season after posting a 5-1 record with two MOP honors a year ago. In Equitation on the Flat, the Bulldogs returns several riders who saw significant time in the ring last season, including senior Caitlyn Francis, who finished last year with a 9-5 record and went undefeated at the NCEA Championship. All-SEC selection Kylee Arbuckle also returns for the Red and Black after posting an 8-5 regular season record. Other returners include SEC All-Freshman Leylan Gleeson, Megan Southam and O’Mara, who combined for a total of eight wins. The Western squad looks to build on its third-place finished at the 2013 NCEA Championship. Led by senior All-American McKenzie Lantz, who went 13-1-1 last season with four MOPs, the Reining squad also returns Lauren Tieche, who picked up eight eins last season. The Horsemanship team also returns a group of impressive riders, including Anna Sasser, Paige Stawicki, Sara Parr and SEC All-Freshman Rachel Kolb who combined for 24 wins for the Bulldogs last season. Georgia kicks off its season Sept. 20 when it hosts its annual Red and Black Scrimmage at 4 p.m., at the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop, Ga. The regular-season gets underway Sept. 29 at 10 a.m., when the Bulldogs host Fresno State.
South Carolina begins its 2013-2014 season on Friday, Sept. 20, when the Gamecocks host Kansas State… Carolina returns most of its lineup from last season, including three-time horsemanship All-American Johnna Letchworth… The Gamecocks return their entire horsemanship lineup from last season, including SEC Co-Freshman Horsemanship Rider of the year - Kelsey Urban… Carolina loses three reiners off of last year's squad, and competition for those open slots has been fierce during preseason camp… On the Hunt side, the Gamecocks lose only two riders from the lineup, including Kimberly McCormack, who leads the program in all-time number of rides, wins, postseason wins, and MVP's… Redshirt sophomore Sam Smith returns for the Gamecocks after a stellar first season of competition, highlighted by her SEC Freshman Rider of the Year award in Equitation on the Flat… Katherine Schmidt returns for her junior season at Carolina, and the Connecticut native is coming off her second straight 20+ win season… Schmidt currently leads the Gamecocks in wins (47), and is expected to compete in both hunt seat events for Carolina this season… South Carolina continues the home stand on Sept. 27 when the Gamecocks host Fresno State… The Gamecocks along with the Town of Blythewood are set to host the 2014 SEC Equestrian Championships, scheduled for March 28-29.
The Texas A&M equestrian team enters its second season in the Southeastern Conference on the hunt for a 12th national title. The Aggies ended the 2012-13 season with both the hunter seat and western squads in the quarterfinal round of the NCEA Championships in Waco with a 7-10 overall record (5-7 hunt seat, 6-6 western). Texas A&M entered the fall of 2012 tied for No. 1 in the nation and remained in the top 10 throughout the season, ending the year ranked No. 8 in the NCEA poll. The Aggies faced nine top-10 opponents (out of 11 meets) in the regular season, including three matchups with the top-ranked team. Texas A&M was one of four challenging SEC teams, in their first year of being sponsored by the conference, that were often ranked first-through-fourth on NCEA lists. All seven teams on the Aggies’ 2013-14 schedule were seeded in the NCEA Championships in 2013, including Western National Champion Oklahoma State (March 8 in College Station) as well as Hunter Seat and Overall National Champions Auburn (Nov. 24 in Bryan and Feb. 15 in Auburn). This year, the team returns 37 riders from last season’s squad and adds 15 newcomers to the roster. Among the returning student-athletes are 2013 NCEA All-American Molli Jacobs, All-SEC selection Laura Sumrall and four sophomores – the most of any school in the conference – who were listed on the SEC All-Freshman team in the spring: Hannah Jechow, Marlena Parker, Logan Pluhar and Hannah Williams.