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April 17, 2011

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WACO, TX – South Carolina’s equestrian team wrapped up competition at the 2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships on Saturday, claiming fifth-place in the Hunt Seat bracket and sixth-place in the Western bracket. Overall, the Gamecocks finished seventh at this year’s championships.

With the exception of a lackluster performance in Equitation on the Flat against Baylor in Friday’s second round, South Carolina’s Hunt Seat team continued its late season success with a 3-1 record at nationals.

After a 6-1 opening round win over Delaware State, the Gamecocks fell 6-2 to Baylor in the second round. South Carolina fell behind early, spotting the Bears a 4-0 lead after being swept in Equitation on the Flat.

In the consolation bracket, the Gamecocks made the most of their second life, defeating Tennessee-Martin and Texas A&M en route to a fifth-place finish. In Friday’s win over the Skyhawks and in Saturday’s win over the Aggies, Carolyn Curcio and Kimberly McCormack combined to go 8-for-8 in their head-to-head rides.

McCormack went 6-0-1 at this year’s nationals, and the sophomore now has a 10-0-1 record in two seasons competing at the championships. McCormack topped her 15-win season from a year ago, as she racked up 17 total wins for the Hunt Seat team this year.

In the Western bracket, the Gamecocks started the championships strong with a 7-1 over Delaware State on Thursday. But in the second round against Georgia later in the day, the Gamecocks stumbled in Horsemanship, dropping three of four points to the Bulldogs, who went on to win the competition 5-3.

On Friday, the Western team rebounded, eliminating Baylor from competition with a 5-3 victory, sending the Gamecocks into the fifth-place competition against Oklahoma State.

Despite Amanda Pope winning her third point at nationals in Reining against the Cowgirls, South Carolina fell behind early, 2-1. In Horsemanship, the Gamecocks failed to make up the difference, as the Cowgirls took three of four points, winning the competition, 4-3.

Saturday’s loss in the fifth-place competition marked the ends of two remarkable Gamecock careers for seniors Chloe Gray and Hailey Thornton. Gray, who had not dropped a point at nationals in over three years, lost in her final ride as a Gamecock. Gray had seven regular season wins and six regular season MVP’s. She finished the season with 10 wins, and ends her career with 44 total.

Thornton’s stellar season continued for one more ride on Saturday, as the senior capped off a 3-1 weekend at nationals defeating her Cowgirl opponent in her final ride as Gamecock. Thornton finished the season with a career-high 11 wins, giving her 31 victories over her four-year career.

Another run ended that came to an end in Waco was the winning streak of redshirt freshman Johnna Letchworth. The Horsemanship rider won 14 consecutive rides, a streak that began Oct. 29 at Kansas State. Her regular season record of 11-1-1 earned her a spot on the inaugural All-America team. She was the only Gamecock named to the All-America team, while three South Carolina riders picked up honorable mention nods. Letchworth went 3-1 at nationals, 4-1 in postseason competition, and 15-2-1 for the season. Her 15 total wins are third only to McCormack, 17, and Curcio, 16.

Overall, the Gameoccks went 5-3 at nationals. South Carolina last won the Varsity Equestrian National Championships in 2007, their second time winning the national title in three years, after first accomplishing the feat in 2005. The Gamecocks won three consecutive Hunt Seat championships, from 2005-2007.

2011 Varisty Equestrian National Championships – Results
Hunt Seat Western
1. Auburn (51-points) 1. Auburn (36-points) 1. Texas A&M (36-points)
2. Georgia (49) 2. Georgia (28) 2. Kansas State (28)
3. Texas A&M (42) 3. Baylor (21) 3. Georgia (21)
4. Kansas State (28) 4. Oklahoma State (15) 4. Auburn (15)
5. Oklahoma State (25) 5. South Carolina (10) 5. Oklahoma State (10)
6. Baylor (22.5) 6. Texas A&M (6) 6. South Carolina (6)
7. South Carolina (16) 7. UT-Martin (1.5) 7. TCU (1.5)
8. TCU (3) 8. TCU (1.5) 8. Baylor (1.5)
9. UT-Martin (1.5)