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April 15, 2010

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Amy Biffle (143-139 win in Horsemanship)
Chloe Gray (136.5-134 win in Reining)
Hailey Thornton (140.5-138 win in Horsemanship
Lydia Roof (135-122.5 win in Reining)
Maggie Fortune (143-141 win in Horsemanship)

WACO, Texas – The South Carolina equestrian team had a strong showing in the first day of competition at the 2010 Varsity Equestrian National Championships, hosted by Baylor University at the Heart O’ Texas Fair Coliseum in Waco.

In the opening round of the Western bracket, No. 10 seed South Carolina defeated No. 7 seed New Mexico State 5-2. The Gamecocks advance to the second round, where they will face No. 2 seed Auburn on Friday.

The Gamecocks won Horsemanship 3-0 and tied the Aggies 2-2 in Reining.

“I’m very proud of our Western girls for riding so well today,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “New Mexico State is a great team and we know that from having competed against them in November. They rode well today, but our girls rode very well today and that proved to be the difference for us.”

Thursday’s competition began with Horsemanship, where the Gamecocks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead courtesy of wins by senior Amy Biffle, junior Hailey Thornton, and sophomore Maggie Fortune. Senior Emily Bookwalter tied in her head-to-head, keeping the Aggies from scoring a point.

“Our Horsemanship girls really set the tone for us today,” Major said. “They were excellent this morning, and it was obvious that mentally and physically, they were well prepared to compete.”

Needing only one point in Reining to secure the victory, the Gamecocks picked up two points on wins by juniors Chloe Gray and Lydia Roof, giving South Carolina the 5-2 win.

“Our experienced reiners – Chloe and Lydia proved how good they are today because they really rode well,” Major said. “We had a few mistakes from our younger girls, but they’re a very talented pair of riders, so I know they’ll work through their mistakes from today and be ready to go tomorrow.”

With the win, the Gamecocks move on to face Auburn on Friday. It will be the fourth time this season that South Carolina competes against the Tigers. Auburn defeated the Gamecocks in the opening round of the Southern Equestrian Championships on March 26. The Tigers went on to win the Championship the next day, defeating Georgia.

“Auburn is a very good team, and the fact that they are the second-seeded team shows that,” Major said. “We have seen a lot of them this year, they have beaten us, and we have beaten them, so I know our girls are very excited to compete against them again.”

The winner of the South Carolina/Auburn competition advances to the semifinals.