COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina senior Johnna Letchworth won the AQHA Amateur Western Horsemanship championship on Tuesday at the 47th All American Quarter Horse Congress, held at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio. Letchworth finished first out of 96 competitors.
Riding Izzy A Jack Bar, Letchworth placed first on three of the four judges' scorecards, earning the senior her fourth championship at Congress. Her first Congress championship came in 2003, winning the 11 & under equitation, followed by back-to-back equitation championships in the 12-14 division in 2004 and 2005.
"Johnna rode extremely well on Tuesday and we're all very excited for her," South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. "She is an excellent competitor and her success comes from her hard work and dedication. She rode against a very tough group of competitors and just had an outstanding show. I'm very proud of her, and also happy for one of our former riders, Allison Bradley, who posted a top-ten finish in the amateur horsemanship. Having two Gamecocks in the top-ten is an outstanding accomplishment for our program."
Letchworth is the third Gamecock in the history of the program to win a Congress championship while still on the team. Layla Choate was the last Gamecock to do it, winning the NRHA Youth Reining (14-18) Championship in 2011, her freshman season. Bradley won the Horsemanship championship in 2005, her sophomore season. Bradley competed at Congress again this year, finishing eighth, just seven spots behind Letchworth.
Through five meets this season, Letchworth is 6-3-1 for the Gamecocks with a team-leading four MVP's. She is 3-2 in horsemanship with a pair of MVP's, and in her first season competing in reining, she is 3-1-1 with two MVP's. In the win over SMU on Oct. 5, Letchworth earned her 18th career MVP, making her the program's all-time leader in career MVP's. She was named Rider of the Month in horsemanship by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association last month, her first national rider of the month honor. Letchworth is a three-time All-American in horsemanship, and was named SEC Horsemanship Rider of the Year last season.
Letchworth was one of several Gamecocks that competed at Congress this year. Freshman Bailey Mierzejewski earned a pair of top-ten finishes, as she finished fourth in 15-18 trail and ninth in 15-18 horsemanship. Sophomore Abigail Pait was a finalist in 15-18 horsemanship and finished sixth in 15-18 showmanship. Freshman Courtney Allen finished seventh in 15-18 showmanship.
The Gamecocks (4-1, 0-1 SEC) are back in action on Friday, when South Carolina travels to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M.
Hosted by the Ohio Quarter Horse Association each year, the All American Quarter Horse Congress is the world's largest single-breed horse show, boasting more than 18,000 entries annually. It is also the largest convention in Ohio, bringing in more than 650,000 people to the area, generating over $180 million in economic impact, according to the OQHA.