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March 25, 2010

Coach Major
Carly Babcock
Annie McDonald and Hailey Thornton

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The fifth-ranked South Carolina equestrian team travels to Auburn, Ala. this weekend to compete in the Southern Equestrian Championships. The Gamecocks (6-5) will face No. 2 Auburn in the first round of the championships Friday at 1 p.m. CT at the Auburn Equestrian Center. The winner of Friday’s competition will face No. 1 Georgia on Saturday for the championship.

“We’re very excited about heading down to Auburn this weekend,” head coach Boo Major said. “We’ve had a good season up until this point, and I think our girls have certainly been riding well lately, so it ought to be an exciting weekend. Auburn is a terrific team with a great group of riders. They always ride really well and I know our girls are really looking forward to Friday.”

The Gamecocks are coming off their regular-season ending 11-8 win at Delaware State last weekend. The Gamecocks won three of the four events, and three Carolina riders won MVP honors.

“At this point in the season, I feel like our girls know what they need to do if they want to beat Auburn on Friday,” Major said. “We have a lot of experience in our senior riders who have been here before and know what they have to do, but we also have a skilled group of younger riders who have been competing all season.”

The Gamecocks won their competition against the Tigers at Auburn on Oct. 2, 2009. Highlighted by a 7-3 victory for the Hunter Seat team, senior Megan Massaro and freshman Kimberly McCormack each picked up a pair of victories as both riders competed and won their rides in equitation and equitation over fences.

In equitation, the Gamecocks will use the same lineup they rode with when they swept Auburn 5-0 in the event on Oct. 2, 2009. Seniors Carly Babcock, Megan Massaro, Alex Haskell, sophomore Colvin Hedgepeth, and freshman Kimberly McCormack will compete for the Gamecocks again and look to continue their winning ways.

“Our flat girls have just been outstanding all year,” Major said. “Carly, Meg, and Alex are all very experienced riders and have been winners here at Carolina their entire careers. And Kimberly and Colvin have ridden extremely well this entire season, so we’ll be looking for everybody to ride well against Auburn on Friday.

In equitation over fences, Massaro and McCormack will remain in the lineup for the Gamecocks. They will be joined by seniors Eleanor Kunsman and Nicole Bourgeois, and freshman Alex Arute. Bourgeois is 6-2 in jumping this year with three MVPs, and Arute is off to a 5-1 start in her freshman campaign.

When South Carolina beat Auburn in October, junior Hailey Thornton scored the Gamecocks’ only point in horsemanship. But in reining, South Carolina won 3-2 on victories from juniors Chloe Gray, Lydia Roof, and freshman Annie McDonald. Roof defeated Auburn’s Kristen Hansen 69-66 and was named MVP.

In Horsemanship, senior captain Emily Bookwalter will be joined in the Gamecocks’ lineup by senior Amy Biffle, junior Hailey Thornton, and sophomores Maggie Fortune and Taylor Singmaster, Singmaster picked up her fourth victory of the season last weekend against Delaware State. The trio of Bookwalter, Thornton, and Fortune have combined to score 18 points for the Gamecocks season to go along with five MVP’s.

In reining, the Gamecocks will compete juniors Chloe Gray and Lydia Roof, sophomore Annie McDonald, and the freshman duo of Amanda Pope and Audrey Jewell. Gray, Jewell, and Pope all scored points for the Gamecocks last weekend as they defeated Delaware State 3-2 in reining. Gray picked up her seventh win of the season on Saturday and leads the reiners with her 7-3 record. Jewell defeated Delaware State’s Kenzie Trueba 73.5-70.5 to earn her third victory of the season and her first MVP honor of her collegiate career.