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No. 1 South Carolina Set to Face No. 4 New Mexico State on Saturday
Equestrian  . 

No. 1 South Carolina Set to Face No. 4 New Mexico State on Saturday

Jan. 31, 2014

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1 South Carolina kicks off the spring portion of its schedule on Saturday, when the Gamecocks travel to face No. 4 New Mexico State at the N.M. State Equestrian Center in Las Cruces, N.M. Saturday’s meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.

“We’re excited to finally get going with our spring schedule, and we certainly have a tough test ahead this weekend,” South Carolina head coach Boo Major said. “New Mexico State I think leads the country with seven wins, so I think Robin would tell you this may be one of her best teams ever. Except for the Texas A&M meet in October, we’ve ridden very well on the road this season, and hopefully we’re able to come out on Saturday and continue that.”

– WHO: No. 1 South Carolina at No. 4 New Mexico State
– WHERE: New Mexico State Equestrian Center – Las Cruces, N.M.
– WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 – 11 a.m. ET
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South Carolina is currently 6-2 overall, and 1-2 in conference play. The Gamecocks’ six wins during the fall set a new program record, and Carolina’s riders posted nine or more points in each meet during the fall. So far this season, the Gamecocks have already set new team records for points scored over a two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight meet stretch.

Both of South Carolina’s losses have come to SEC opponents Georgia and Texas A&M. Carolina dropped a 9-9 tiebreaker at home to Georgia, and lost the following week, 10-9, on the road against the Aggies.

This season, the Gamecocks are 2-1 at home, 3-1 on the road, and 1-0 in neutral site action. Carolina is currently on a two-meet winning streak.

New Mexico State enters Saturday’s meet as the No. 4 team in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) rankings. The Aggies started the season unranked, but quickly climbed to their highest ranking ever by winning seven meets during the fall, most in the nation.

Saturday’s meet marks New Mexico State’s first meet of the spring semester. The Aggies will also face SMU, Georgia, Auburn and West Texas A&M during their spring schedule.

South Carolina closed out the fall portion of its schedule on Nov. 23, 2013, when the Gamecocks dropped South Dakota State, 14-5. Both the hunt seat and western teams cruised against the Jackrabbits. The western team won 7-3, while the hunt seat team won, 7-2.

The Gamecocks have dropped their last two meets in Las Cruces.

On Oct. 29, 2011, Carolina dropped a tiebreaker at New Mexico State. The western team won, 6-4, while the hunt seat team lost, 6-4. Tied 10-10 at the end of the meet, the Aggies prevailed, 1,402-1361. During the 2009-2010 season, South Carolina traveled to Las Cruces for a pair of meets against New Mexico State and Baylor. The Gamecocks edged the Aggies, 8-7, but dropped a 9-7 decision to the Bears.

South Carolina and New Mexico State last faced off at the 2013 NCEA National Championships in Waco, Texas. On April 18, 2013 on the first day at nationals, the western team upended the Aggies, 6-2, advancing to the second round, where Carolina would roll past TCU, 5-2. In the Gamecocks’ 6-2 defeat of the Aggies, South Carolina turned in a pair of 3-1 performances in both horsemanship and reining.

In the fall finale at South Dakota State, two Gamecocks won their first career MVPs.

Sophomores Abigail Pait (horsemanship) and Samantha Kraus (equitation over fences) won their first MVPs as Gamecocks. Pait earned her MVP with an event-high score of 74.5, wining her head-to-head by three points.

Kraus knocked off her Jackrabbit opponent with an event-high score of 82, winning her head-to-head by eight points.

Senior Johnna Letchworth won six MVPs during the fall, tied with Katherine Schmidt for most on the team. Letchworth now has 20 career MVPs, the most in the history of South Carolina equestrian.

Letchworth has 17 horsemanship MVPs, and three reining MVPs.

Gamecock junior Layla Choate is one of eight collegiate riders selected to compete on Sunday in the 2014 Sun Circuit Shootout Reining Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz. Choate will travel to the show following Saturday’s meet at New Mexico State. Choate will face South Dakota State’s Raivenne Scott in the opening round, with the winner advancing to the semifinals to face the winner of the Brynn Larson (New Mexico State)/Marilyn Brandt (West Texas A&M) round.

South Carolina junior Katherine Schmidt is one of 16 collegiate riders selected to compete in the 2014 Collegiate Equitation Challenge, held at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla. Two years ago, Schmidt was the runner up in the equitation on the flat bracket, while then-junior Kimberly McCormack was the champion of the equitation over fences bracket.

During the fall, several Gamecocks were recognized for their competitive efforts. Here is a recap of Carolina’s riders that were named SEC Riders of the Month and NCEA National Riders of the Month.

SEC Riders of the Month
– November 2013 – Layla Choate (reining)
– October 2013 – Katherine Schmidt (equitation over fences)
– October 2013 – Johnna Letchworth (reining)

NCEA National Riders of the Month
– October 2013 – Katherine Schmidt (equitation over fences)
– October 2013 – Samantha Smith (equitation on the flat)
– October 2013 – Johnna Letchworth (reining)
– September 2013 – Katherine Schmidt (equitation over fences)
– September 2013 – Johnna Letchworth (horsemanship)

Redshirt sophomore Samantha Smith has 12 wins so far this season, second most on the team behind Katherine Schmidt’s 14. Smith has posted identical 6-2 records in both hunt seat events this season, winning both of her MVPs in equitation on the flat. The Rhode Island native boasts a 7-3 overall road record, including a 4-1 road mark in equitation on the flat.

The Gamecocks have six horsemanship riders with at least a .500 winning percentage. Seniors Johnna Letchworth (5-3), Alison Ceresani (5-3) and Katie Kopf (3-2), junior Sam Chiodo (4-2-2), and sophomores Abigail Pait (3-1) and Kelsey Urban (2-2) all have .500 records or better. The six have five horsemanship MVPs between them.

The reining team has also enjoyed a successful season so far, as five of Carolina’s six reiners have .500 or better records. Layla Choate (7-1), Cody McMillion (6-1-1), Johnna Letchworth (5-2-1), Jordan Brown (4-4), and Sarah Bouchard (3-3) have combined to go 25-11-2 with six MVP’s.

South Carolina has used six different riders (Katherine Schmidt, Samantha Smith, Amber Henter, Samantha Kraus, Alexa Anthony, Emily Reynolds) in the equitation over fences lineup through the first eight meets of the season. All six riders are at least .500 or better, and the group has a combined jumping record of 28-10-1 with six MVPs.

This year, the Gamecock veterans helped lead Carolina to its best fall season in team history. Not only did the Gamecocks set a team record for six fall wins, but Carolina also has broken multiple scoring records along the way.

In each of the four events, the winning percentage leaders are all juniors and seniors. In both hunt seat events, junior Katherine Schmidt has set the pace for the Gamecocks with an 8-0 record in equitation over fences while going 6-1-1 in equitation on the flat. In horsemanship, seniors Johnna Letchworth and Alison Ceresani are tied with identical 5-3 records. In reining, junior Layla Choate leads the way with a near perfect 7-1 record.

Including Saturday’s meet against New Mexico State, the Gamecocks have five regular season meets left – Feb. 1 vs. New Mexico State, Feb. 8 at Georgia, Feb. 22 vs. Texas A&M, Mar. 1 vs. Auburn, and Mar. 8 at Tennessee-Martin.

South Carolina will host the 2014 SEC Equestrian Championship, scheduled for March 28-29 at One Wood Farm in Blythewood. The semifinals (No. 1 seed vs. No. 4 seed, No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed) will take place on Fri., March 28. On Sat., March 29, the two semifinal winners will meet for the SEC Championship, while the two semifinal losers will compete for third and fourth place, respectively.

This year’s NCEA National Championships will be held April 17-19 at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.

South Carolina continues spring action next weekend, when the Gamecocks travel to face No. 6 Georgia. The Bulldogs opened spring competition last week with wins over Tennessee-Martin and Delaware State. The Feb. 8 showdown in Bishop, Ga. will be the second meeting of the Gamecocks and Bulldogs this season. In the teams’ fall meeting on Oct. 11, Georgia prevailed on the 9-9 tiebreaker, winning on raw scores.