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Sept. 19, 2013

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September 19, 2013
Katherine Schmidt

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The third-ranked South Carolina equestrian team will begin its 18th season on Friday, when the defending SEC champion Gamecocks host No. 5 Kansas State at One Wood Farm in Blythewood. Admission is free to all South Carolina equestrian meets, and fans are advised that pets are not allowed at One Wood Farm.

“We’re always excited about the start of a new year, and I think the girls are ready to finally get the season underway,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “Kansas State is a very tough opponent, and they beat us pretty good last year, so I think this will be a very exciting top-five matchup to kickoff the college equestrian season. We have a veteran lineup going for us on Friday, and we feel very good about our preparation during preseason camp.”

• WHO: No. 5 Kansas State vs. No. 3 South Carolina
• WHEN: Friday, September 20, 2013 • 10 a.m.
• WHERE: One Wood Farm • Blythewood, S.C.
• LIVE SCORING: Click Here for Live Scores

• This season marks the 18th year of Gamecock equestrian.
• The Gamecocks have won two overall national championships (2005, 2007).
• The Gamecocks finished as the national runner up in 2006. The 2005-2006 western team finished as the reserve national champion.
• South Carolina has three hunt seat national championships (2005, 2006, 2007).
• The Gamecocks are the defending Southeastern Conference champions.
• Prior to the creation of the SEC equestrian championship, Carolina won the Southern Equestrian Championship in March 2012.

• Kansas State finished as the national runner-up in the western bracket at last year’s NCEA National Championships.
• The Wildcats’ hunt seat team finished 8th at nationals last year.
• The Wildcats have finished as the national runner-up three times in program history.
• No current rider on Kansas State’s roster has ever competed at One Wood Farm.
• Kansas State has 21 seniors on its roster this season, compared to just nine seniors on the Gamecock roster.
• Kansas State has never won a meet at One Wood Farm.

South Carolina head coach Boo Major is in her 17th season leading the Gamecock equestrian program. Since returning to her alma mater for the start of the 1997-1998 season, Major has turned the Gamecocks into an elite program. Last season, the Gamecocks soared to new heights, as South Carolina upset No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Auburn to capture the inaugural SEC Championship and the No. 1 ranking in the country.

Associate head coach Ruth Sorrel returns for her ninth season leading the western team. Assistant coach Carol Gwin is in her fourth season as the hunt seat coach. Andrea Tito returns for her second season as the team’s barn manager.

Friday’s meet will mark the first of four straight weekends of competition for the Gamecocks. Carolina will return to action on Sept. 20, when the Gamecocks host Fresno State. One week later, the Gamecocks travel to Delaware State for meets against the Hornets and Southern Methodist University. Carolina will close out this busy portion of the schedule on Oct. 11, when the Gamecocks host national runner-up Georgia.

The Gamecocks will compete in 13 regular season meets this year. Of those 13, eight will take place during the fall semester. South Carolina has never competed in eight meets during a single semester in program history. Prior to this season, the most number of meets the team has competed in during a single semester is seven, which has happened three different times (fall 2009, spring 2009, spring 2007).

Senior Johnna Letchworth has established herself as one of the top horsemanship riders in the country since the beginning of her career three years ago. The Harwinton, Conn. native has posted three 11-plus win seasons, making her the first western rider in team history to do that. Letchworth has a career record of 33-4-3, giving her a .891 winning percentage in head-to-head rides that went to a decision.

Letchworth’s 33 wins place her within striking distance of former Gamecock Chloe Gray, who posted 35 career wins from 2007-2011. During her senior season in 2010-2011, Gray earned six MVP’s, the most by a Gamecock western rider in a single season. Letchworth has won five MVP’s in each of the last two seasons, and could make run at Gray’s six MVP’s this year. The team record for MVP’s in a season was set by Kristen Terebesi during the 2007-2008, when she won 10 MVP’s while competing in both equitation over fences and equitation on the flat.

Letchworth may become a regular in the reining lineup for the Gamecocks this year, giving her an opportunity to break another Gamecock record – most single-season wins by a western rider. That record is currently held by former Gamecock Allison Bradley, who posted 21 wins for the Gamecocks during her senior year in 2007-2008. Bradley, the 2005 Horsemanship champion at Congress, went 11-6-1 in horsemanship while going 10-6 in reining. Bradley’s 34 rides that season also stand as the most by a western rider in a single season.

Since Sept. 20, 2008, the Gamecocks have defeated every NCEA team in a regular season meet with the exception of one team – Kansas State. South Carolina’s last regular season win over the Wildcats came in the season opener on Sept. 19, 2008. The Gamecocks turned in a 13-4 win over Kansas State, highlighted by a 9-1 win by the hunt seat team.

Since that meet, the two teams have only met twice during the regular season. The Gamecocks and Wildcats last met Mar. 8, 2013 in Manhattan, Kan., a meet won by K-State, 14-6. Prior to that meet, the teams had faced each other since Oct. 29, 2010, also at Kansas State. Despite a 6-4 win for the western team, Kansas State held on to edge the Gamecocks, 11-9.

The Gamecocks and Kansas State faced off in a hunt seat competition at the 2012 NCEA National Championshps. In the meet for fifth place, the Gamecocks turned in a dominating performance, as Carolina upended the Wildcats, 7-1.

The Gamecocks have never won an away meet at Kansas State, and the Wildcats have never won a road meet at South Carolina. The Gamecocks won their only home meet against K-State (13-4 on Sept. 19, 2008), while the Gamecocks are winless in three road meets against the Wildcats.

Friday’s meet will mark the first time in team history that the Gamecocks do not have a freshman in the opening day lineup for a dual meet. A search of athletic department records indicates that it may also be the first time ever that South Carolina has not competed a single freshman in a dual meet.

Of the 20 lineup spots for the Gamecocks on Friday, seven are filled by juniors, seven by sophomore, and six by seniors.

The Gamecocks return to action Fri., Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. when South Carolina hosts Fresno State.

• I-77 North
• Exit 27 – Blythewood Road
• Turn left onto Blythewood Road, crossing over I-77
• Drive 0.9 miles, turning right onto Syrup Mill Road
• Drive 0.7 miles, and One Wood Farm will be on your left. The facility is marked
with a large sign that is visible from the road