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Feb. 24, 2012

February 24, 2012
Maggie Fortune

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The fifth-ranked South Carolina equestrian team will close out its home schedule this weekend, as the Gamecocks host No. 1 Auburn on Saturday at 10 a.m., and No. 4 Baylor on Sunday at 11 a.m. Both meets will take place at One Wood Farm in Blythewood, and admission is free to all Gamecock equestrian events.

Saturday’s competition against Auburn will mark the Gamecocks’ annual EquiFest Kids Day at One Wood Farm. Admission to Gamecock equestrian meets is free of charge, and there is no charge for children to participate in the various EquiFest events. Saturday’s events include:

• Decorate your own cowboy hat
• Make your own stick horse
• Decorate your own horse show
• Coloring station

South Carolina’s 16-3 win at UT-Martin on Feb 11 was the Gamecocks’ largest margin of victory ever on the road in the dual meet era. The last time the Gamecocks beat a team by 12 or more points on the road was March 2, 2008, when Carolina picked up a 15-3 win at Sacred Heart.

Not only has South Carolina never hosted two top-5 teams in the same weekend, the Gamecocks have never hosted top-5 teams in back-to-back meets. Auburn is currently ranked No. 1 in the latest coaches poll, while Baylor comes to Blythewood ranked fourth.

With One Wood Farm playing host to three top-5 teams this weekend, the equestrian world will be following closely as the Gamecocks take on both Auburn and Baylor.

The top-ranked Tigers have already lost once since the last coaches poll came out, and with No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 3 Georgia competing against lower ranked teams this weekend, Auburn may find itself out of the number-one spot for the first time this season.

Baylor, also coming off a loss since the last coaches poll was released, will compete three times this weekend, with two of those three meets against ranked opponents – at No. 3 Georgia and at No. 5 South Carolina. Baylor will also compete against Fresno State in a neutral site competiton at the UGA Equestrian Complex.

The Gamecocks have a chance to make waves this weekend, too. Having jumped two spots in the latest coaches poll after their 16-3 drubbing of UT-Martin, Carolina controls its own destiny this weekend. With Auburn and Baylor already coming off losses, both teams are sure to drop in the next poll if they pick up a loss in Blythewood.

• The 2011-2012 campaign marks the 15th season of the Gamecock equestrian program.
• Junior Kimberly McCormack is 13-3 with three MVP’s in Hunt Seat action this season. She is 6-1 in Equitation on the Flat and 7-2 in Equitation Over Fences. McCormack went 2-for-2 at Auburn on Oct. 8.
• Sophomore Alison Ceresani has made the most of her first season as full-time competitor, as the New Jersey native is 6-2 in Horsemanship. She earned her first MVP as a Gamecock at UT-Martin on Feb. 11, as she was part of a 5-0 sweep for the Horsemanship team.
• Senior Western captain Maggie Fortune is 4-2-2 in Horsemanship this season, and has not lost a point since the fall.
• Redshirt Freshman Amber Henter is 8-4 overall in Hunt Seat action, including a 6-3 mark in Equitation Over Fences, where she has also won one MVP.
• Junior Logan Holler is 4-0 in Equitation on the Flat this season, and earned her first career MVP on Jan. 29 at home against Oklahoma State.
• Junior Audrey Jewell is 4-1-1 in Reining this season, and has not dropped a point during the spring portion of the Gamecocks’ season.
• Redshirt sophomore Johnna Letchworth is 7-1 in Horsemanship this season to go along with two MVP’s. She is 3-0 in spring competitions this season, and has a career 18-2-1 regular season record.
• Columbia native Cody McMillion is 4-1 in her first season as a Gamecock. McMillion has also posted two MVP’s this season, the last coming on Feb. 11 at UT-Martin, where she scored an event-high 70.5

Now in its 15th season as a varsity sport, the Gamecock equestrian program had a record setting performance in the classroom last semester. South Carolina’s riders earned a 3.545 GPA during the Fall 2011 semester, the highest ever in team history. Thirty-two of the team’s 40 riders posted GPA’s at or above 3.0, earning them a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. Sixteen equestrians posted GPA’s at or above the 3.5 mark, earning them a spot on the Dean’s List.

Eleven equestrians posted perfect 4.0 GPA’s, earning them spots on the President’s List. Alexa Anthony, Alison Ceresani, Melanie Cormier, Paige Dekko, Maggie Fortune, Colvin Hedgepeth, Allie Kraybill, Melody Malbin, Kimberly McCormack, Rachel Roter, and Adele Norton all were perfect in the classroom for the Gamecocks last semester.

The Tiger’s enter Saturday’s meet as the nation’s top team. Ranked No. 1 since the beginning of the season, Auburn is 7-2 and coming off an 8-8 tiebreaker loss at home to No. 3 Georgia on Feb. 18. Tied 8-8 at the end of the meet, the Bulldogs prevailed in raw scores, 1564.25-1562.75. Both of Auburn’s losses came against Georgia, as the Bulldogs swept both the Tigers and Gamecocks this season.

Auburn is the defending national champion, after winning last year’s title in April.

Auburn has won three in a row over South Carolina, including a 10-10 tiebreaker at Auburn on Oct. 8, 2011. Both teams tied 5-5 in Hunt Seat and Western action, but the Tigers prevailed in the raw score tiebreaker. Senior captain Maggie Fortune earned MVP honors for her 74.71.5 win in Horsemanship, and junior Kimberly McCormack improved to 6-0 in Hunt Seat action, as she and fellow junior Carolyn Curcio combined to go 4-for-4.

Since the 2006-2007 season, Auburn and Carolina have met 11 times, nine of which have been decided by four points or less. The two competitions decided by more than four points came on Sept. 30, 2006, when Gamecocks won 12-7, and Feb. 9, 2008 in a Carolina victory at Auburn.

Since the 2005-2006 season, the Gamecocks are 3-3 against Auburn in Blythewood.

The Gamecocks have lost three in a row to Auburn in Blythewood, and have not beaten the Tigers at One Wood Farm since Feb. 9, 2008, when Carolina defeated Auburn, 14-5, en route to its 13th consecutive win at home.

In a season that has seen a lot of movement in the coaches poll, the Bears have consistently found themselves as the No. 4 team. Baylor is 7-2 this season, and the Bears are coming off a 13-11 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma State on Feb. 18 in Waco. Just like Auburn, in that both of its losses came at the hands of Georgia, both of Baylor’s losses have come against the Cowgirls.

The Bears have a grueling weekend ahead, as Baylor will compete three times. The Bears will face Fresno State and Georgia on Friday and Saturday, before traveling to Blythewood on Sunday.

Sunday’s meet will mark Baylor’s first trip to Blythewood since the start of the 2006-2007 season. In the season opener on Sept. 22, 2006, South Carolina defeated the Bears, 11-9,

South Carolina and Baylor may not be in the same conference, but the two teams have become non-conference rivals as of late. Last year, the teams met twice during the regular season, and then twice at Nationals. In the first of two regular season meets last year, the Gamecocks doubled up the Bears in Waco, cursing to a 12-6 victory on Jan. 30, 2011. Carolina won three of four MVP’s in that meet, all three of which were won by riders that will face the bears on Sunday – Maggie Fortune (Horsemanship), Kimberly McCormack (Equitation on the Flat), and Carolyn Curcio (Equitation Over Fences).

The Bears got their revenge less than a month later, as they defeated Carolina, 6-5 in Fresno, Calif., at the Best of the West Tournament.

The two team’s met again on April 15, 2011 in Waco at the National Championships. In the Hunt Seat bracket, Baylor stunned Carolina to the tune of 6-2, sending the Gamecocks’ Hunt Seat riders to the losers bracket.

South Carolina returned the favor later in the day as the Gamecock Western riders picked up a 5-3 win over the Bears, officially ending their Western team’s season.

Prior to the 2010-2011 season, the two teams last met in a neutral site meet on Nov. 20, 2009 in Las Cruces, N.M., a match that Baylor won, 9-7.

Despite being 1,030 miles apart, South Carolina and Baylor have met in back-to-back regular season meets before. The first and only time it has ever happened in program history, the Gamecocks and Bears have in fact face each other in consecutive meets at One Wood Farm.

Before opening the 2006-2007 season against Baylor at home, Carolina hosted the Bears in the home finale of the 2005-2006 season, as the Gamecocks won all four events in route to the win.

Sunday’s meet against Baylor could see a pair of rematches against four of the top Hunt Seat riders in the country. At the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival two weeks ago in Wellington, Fla., South Carolina and Baylor took first and second place honors in both brackets at the third annual Collegiate Equitation Challenge.

In the Equitation Over Fences bracket, South Carolina junior Kimberly McCormack defeated Baylor’s Lisa Goldman, 87.5-85, in the finals to win the title.

In the Equitation on the Flat bracket, the Bears’ Taylor Brown defeated Gamecock freshman Katherine Schmidt in the finals to win the championship.

Sunday’s meet against Baylor will mark senior day for the Gamecocks, as the equestrian team will honor this year’s six departing seniors. Hunt Seat seniors Paige Dekko, Colvin Hedgepeth, and Victoria Middleton, along with Western seniors Maggie Fortune, Annie McDonald, and Taylor Singmaster will participate in the traditional senior day ceremony at approximately 10:35 a.m. Sunday. South Carolina head coach Boo Major, associate head coach Ruth Sorrel, assistant Hunt Seat coach Carol Gwin, and Associate Athletics Director for Academics and Life Skills Raymond Harrison will honor the seniors during the ceremony.

• 104 – winning rides
• 22 – MVP’s
• 17 – appearances on the Dean’s List (3.5 GPA or higher for a semester)
• 14 – appearances on the President’s List (4.0 GPA for a semester)
• 13 – SEC Academic Honor Roll awards
• 6 – SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll awards

Saturday vs. Auburn:
Sunday vs. Baylor:

Take I-77 N. to Exit 27, which is Blythewood Road. Turn left and cross back over I-77 and pass Cobblestone Park. Approximately half-a-mile after Cobblestone turn right for Syrup Mill Road. One Wood Farm is the first driveway down on the left, and it will be marked by a large sign with a Gamecock logo.