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March 29, 2012

March 29, 2012
Audrey Jewell

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 6 South Carolina will face No. 3 Auburn on Friday in the opening round of the Southern Equestrian Championships at the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop, Ga. Friday’s meet is set to begin at 2:30 p.m., and the winner will advance to face top seeded Georgia on Saturday.

Georgia will provide Live Scoring for both weekend meets, including Friday’s South Carolina-Auburn competition.


The Tigers enter Friday’s meet with an 8-4 record. Auburn has lost three of its last four meets for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.

Three of Auburn’s four losses have come since the middle of February, starting with an 8-8 tiebreaker loss at home to Georgia on Feb. 18. One week later, the Gamecocks stunned the top-ranked Tigers, 12-6. Two weeks after that, the Tigers dropped an 8-7 decision at New Mexico State.

Auburn is also the defending national champion.

The Gamecocks enter Friday’s meet with a record of 7-5. Carolina has gone 4-2 during the spring, and is currently on a four-meet winning streak.

Friday’s meet will mark the third time South Carolina and Auburn have faced off this season.

Both teams split the regular season series 1-1, as each squad picked up its win at home. Auburn edged the Gamecocks on Oct. 8 in a 10-10 tiebreaker. Freshmen Layla Choate and Katherine Schmidt did not compete in the fall meeting, but both riders did compete against the Tigers in the spring meet, combining to go 3-0 as each rider picked up one MVP.

South Carolina prevailed in the spring meet, as the Gamecocks handed then-No. 1 Auburn a 12-6 loss, the Tigers’ worst regular season loss since the 2008-2009 season.

South Carolina freshman Katherine Schmidt led the Gamecocks in wins during the regular season, a feat held by junior Kimberly McCormack the past two years. Schmidt went 16-6 during the regular season with five MVP’s, barely edging McCormack, who went 15-5 with four MVP’s.

Schmidt is not the only Gamecock freshman to post double-digit wins this season. Redshirt freshman Amber Henter tallied a 10-5 record during the regular season, including an 8-4 mark in Equitation Over Fences with one MVP.

South Carolina junior Kimberly McCormack posted 15 wins during the regular season, her most yet as a Gamecock. This marks the third straight year McCormack has posted at least 15 wins in a season.

As a freshman in 2009-2010, McCormack had ten regular season wins, and finished the season with 15 total.

Last year as a sophomore, she posted nine regular season wins, but went on an 8-0-1 run during the postseason, giving her 17 total wins.

South Carolina’s Hunt Seat team is 10-2 this season. The Gamecocks have won seven meets in a row in Hunt Seat action, and have not lost since dropping a 6-4 decision at New Mexico State on Oct. 29.

The Gamecocks’ Western team is 6-5 this season. The Western riders are currently on a four meet winning streak, outscoring opponents, 26-8, during that stretch.

The Western team’s resurgence has jumpstarted the Gamecocks during the spring. South Carolina’s four-meet winning streak has included four wins by the Western team. South Carolina has won six dual meets this season (meets that include both Western and Hunt Seat events), and in those six dual meet wins, the Western team is 5-1.

One theme that has been prominent in South Carolina’s wins this season is a balanced attack. Strong performances on both ends of the scoresheet has led the Gamecocks all season, and is a streak that Carolina will look to build on during the postseason.

The Western team is 5-1 in South Carolina’s six dual meet wins this season, while the Hunt Seat team is a perfect 6-0.

Johnna Letchworth and Alison Ceresani have dominated opponents this season in Horsemanship action.

Letchworth posted her second double-digit win season, as the sophomore already has ten on the season. Her ten wins are the most by any Gamecock rider in a single event, a statistic in which she has the led the team the past two years. Letchworth is 10-1 this season with four MVP’s, and 21-2-1 in regular season action over the past two seasons.

Ceresani, in her first season of competition at the college level, has made an instant impact, going 9-2 during the regular season. Her nine wins in Horsemanship are the second most wins by any Gamecock rider in a single event. She also has one MVP this season.

South Carolina’s Western team has a trio of freshman who have each won five rides in their first season of competition.

In Reining, Columbia native Cody McMillion is 5-2-1 with three MVP’s. Layla Choate has also put up five wins in her first season as a Gamecock along with two MVP’s.

In Horsemanship, Sam Chiodo is 5-3 with two MVP’s.

This year’s freshman class leads the Gamecocks in both wins (42) and MVP’s (13).

This marks the tenth year of the Southern Equestrian Championships. Since equestrian is not yet recognized as a Southeastern Conference sport, the three SEC teams that sponsor equestrian (Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina) put on the event this year to make up for the lack of a conference championship.

The championship has rotated every year between the three schools. Last year’s Southern Equestrian Championship was hosted by South Carolina at One Wood Farm.

2011 – Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina)
2010 – Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina)
2009 – Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina)
2008 – Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn)
2007 – Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina)
2006 – Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn)
2005 – Georgia (2nd: South Carolina, 3rd: Auburn)
2004 – Auburn (2nd: Georgia, 3rd: South Carolina)
2003 – Georgia (2nd: Auburn, 3rd: South Carolina, 4th: Vanderbilt)

South Carolina’s Hunt Seat team earned the No. 2 seed at Nationals, and with that comes a first round bye. The Gamecocks’ Hunt Seat squad will face the winner of the Texas A&M/Fresno State.

The Gamecocks’ Western squad earned the No. 5 seed at Nationals, and will face No. 12 seed Tennessee-Martin in the opening round. The winner of that meet will advance to face No. 4 seed Auburn in the second round.

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association’s National Championships will run April 12-14 at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.