April 12, 2017
The 2016-17 season is the 20th anniversary of head coach Boo Major’s tenure at the University of South Carolina. As the Gamecocks prepare for the 2017 NCEA Championship event, GamecocksOnline.com will look back on some of the biggest victories of Major’s career, including today’s feature, spotlighting the 2015 NCEA Championship meet.
After suffering consecutive losses in their previous competition, the SEC Championship, Major and the Gamecocks were seemingly low on momentum as they entered the 2015 NCEA national meet. Still, Carolina entered nationals as the No. 3 seed, and with six All-Americans on the roster, the Gamecocks were confident they could end the season on a high note.
But few could have expected that Carolina would roll through Waco as easily as it did. Over the course of three days, the Gamecocks knocked off United Equestrian Conference champion Fresno State, 12-4, Big 12 champion Baylor, 10-6 and top-ranked SEC champion Georgia, 10-6. The national championship was the program’s third and the first under the NCEA banner.
In the championship match, Carolina and Georgia split both equitation on the flat and horsemanship to even the score at 4-all midway through. But the Gamecocks dominated both reining and equitation over fences, taking three of the four points in both events to win by a comfortable 10-6 margin.
Then-junior Sarah Bouchard captured the clinching point, winning her reining battle 136.5-128 over Georgia’s Lauren Tieche. Amber Henter was victorious in both fences and flat, while other individual victors in the championship match included Adele Norton in flat, Samantha Smith and Sydney Smith in fences, Abigail Pait and Sam Chiodo in horsemanship and Cody McMillion and Layla Choate in reining.
WHAT THEY SAID THEN
“What an outstanding day; words don’t begin to describe how proud I am of this team. I have to give all of the credit to the girls because they came to Texas with the goal of winning a national title, and they did every single thing they needed to do to make it happen. This is a great moment for our program, and to send our seniors off with four championship rings, that’s quite an accomplishment. We’re excited to bring the trophy back to Columbia and share it with all of our Gamecock fans.”– head coach Boo Major
WHAT THEY SAY NOW
“We had a rough outing before Nationals at SECs. After that, we worked tirelessly before Nationals by practicing as much as possible, having team meetings and working on becoming one unit. The few weeks before Nationals changed us and allowed us to go to Waco the most confident we had ever been. It was in those few weeks that we grow together as a team-more determined than ever.”– Abigail Pait
“The National Championship always seemed to be out of reach for us at South Carolina. We were runners-up in 2014, and at the time, I though that was our year to seal the deal and bring home the title. 2015 wasn’t looking great for us as a younger team, but we kept pushing with no expectations to hold us back. As the Hunt Seat captain, I just wanted to give my team everything they deserved throughout the year and especially at the National Championship. Being able to stay focused and win two points under tough circumstances was indescribable. I remember having a tough time in my flat warm-up and telling myself to just keep it together and pull this one out, because it would start the momentum for the following points. Jumping was always my stronger suite so I was more nervous for my flat performance but knowing everyone had confidence in me was the best feeling in the world. I had a lot of experience at Nationals so I felt as though the younger girls were looking up to me to gain confidence from my presence in the ring. In the end all those factors helped me overcome any fear and win both of my points.”– Amber Henter
“Winning the National Championship was something I will never forget. After our team had won SECs more than once, we wanted more than anything to also have a National Championship. Of course, winning the meet-clinching point was one of my career highlights, but it was such a team oriented win I would have been just as excited it I had lost my point and someone else had clinched the win. It was one of those moments I will never forget. I remember when they announced my opponent’s score, the whole team was watching in the bleachers. They ended up being able to read the score before me and they all jumped out of their seats and started cheering, crying and hugging. I was still down in front of the pen so the coaches, a few of my teammates and I celebrated on our own with hugs and tears until the rest of the team ran down to join us. It was truly a moment I will never forget. It wasn’t so much a personal victory in that moment, but a victory for the whole team.”– Sarah Bouchard
“Any national championship is a huge feat. It was the culmination of a very good team that had a plan and stuck to that plan for the four years they were here. At the time, Amber Henter, a three-year captain was very influential, as was Katherine Schmidt and Layla Choate. Sam Chiodo and Amber, together, helped mold the team to where they were going to be successful. Our seniors certainly had a role in that. On of their mantras was ‘four rings in four years.’ (They were) going to get four rings in four years. It was neat to see it culminate with a national championship.”– Coach Major