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Feb. 26, 2011

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Hailey Thornton

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FRESNO, Calif. – No. 6 South Carolina got a 6-0 sweep from its Hunt Seat team as the Gamecocks put away No. 5 TCU, 9-3, on Saturday, in South Carolina’s first competition at the fifth annual Best of the West Tournament, held at Fresno State’s Student Horse Center. South Carolina swept all four MVP’s on the day as well.

The Hunt Seat team picked up a 6-0 win, while the Western team defeated TCU on the raw-score tie-breaker.

“This was a big win for us today against a very good TCU team,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “TCU was 5-0 heading into today and they hadn’t lost a regular-season competition since last spring. For us to beat a top-5 undefeated team, it was a great way to start the weekend.”

The Gamecocks (5-6) began Saturday’s competition strong, winning two of three points in Horsemanship, and then collecting a 3-0 sweep in Equitation on the Flat.

In Horsemanship, senior Hailey Thornton picked up a 74-71.5 win over TCU’s Ashley Aikman, improving her record to 6-3-1. Redshirt freshman Johnna Letchworth continued her domination over opposing riders Saturday, as she defeated the Horned Frogs’ Alexie Estrada 74.5-71, earning her third MVP of the season. Letchworth is now 8-1-1, and has not dropped a decision since Oct. 23, 2010 at Georgia.

In Equitation on the Flat, it was a 3-0 sweep for South Carolina as junior Colvin Hedgepeth, sophomore Kimberly McCormack, and freshman Kelsey Hart won their rides with room to spare. Hedgepeth knocked off TCU’s Miliana Trimino, 77-61. McCormack picked up a 70-67 win over Tassie Munroe, and Hart was named MVP as she turned in an event-high score of 80 in a 12-point win over Jessica Hagan.

In Equitation Over Fences, the Gamecocks finished the Hunt Seat sweep as they won the event 3-0. The sophomore trio of McCormack, Alex Arute, and Jeanette Collins all won their rides, giving South Carolina its first regular-season Hunt Seat sweep since the Gamecocks swept Sacred Heart’s Hunt Seat team 8-0 on Feb. 20, 2009, en route to a 15-1 win.

Arute, the Hunt Seat captain, defeated TCU’s Taylor Frederick, 78-73, improving her record 6-4 in the jumping event. Collins won her first point as a Gamecock on Saturday, as she scored a 64, defeating the Horned Frogs’ Callie Selchau, who was disqualified after being thrown from her horse during her ride. TCU head coach Gary Williams said Selchau’s status was good, noting that X-rays did not find any damage. McCormack’s 79-78 win over Victoria Lee earned the sophomore her eighth win of the season, and her sixth MVP of the season.

“A really good result for our jumpers today,” Major said. “We’re happy Jeanette picked up her first point as a Gamecock. She has looked great in practice and earned her way on this trip this weekend. And Kimmy and Alex continued to ride well, so I’m very happy with our execution today.”

With an 8-1 lead and the win secured heading into Reining, the Gamecocks dropped two of three points, with senior captain Chloe Gray defeating TCU’s Kolby Simonson, 71.5-68.5. Gray was named MVP for her ride, completing the Gamecock MVP sweep. Gray now has five wins on the season and four MVP’s.

South Carolina continues competition in the tournament on Sunday, as the Gamecocks will compete against No. 9 Fresno State and No. 8 Baylor. Both competitions are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. (Eastern) at the Student Horse Center.

“Fresno State has won this tournament four years in a row, and that’s no fluke because they have a strong team,” Major said. “And we just faced Baylor at their place last month, and I was very proud of our effort when we beat them on the road. We just need to continue riding mistake-free.”

Live Scoring will be available for both competitions. Click Here for the Fresno State live scoring page, and Click Here for the Baylor live scoring page.