Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The University of South Carolina equestrian team is ranked No. 1 in the country, according to the final fall National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) rankings.
For Berkeley graduate Savanna Southard, she saw the team’s top ranking as being where the team ought to be.
“We picked up right where we left off last season after winning the SEC championship,” she said.
As for her personal riding she continues to make strides.
“I am still continuing to improve mentally while riding as well as just improving my riding all together,” Southard said. “I’ve been visiting with our sports psychologist to keep me together mentally. During practice, Coach Sorrel and my teammates give me, as we like to call it ‘constructive criticism.’”
Southard said during a recent practice, her shoulders have been uneven while doing a pattern, “So for that practice, I would work on keeping my shoulders even and Coach and my teammates would keep reminding me of it. This constructive criticism has made me come a long way since the beginning of last year.”
Southard looks to see more action in the ring during the spring portion of the season.
“I’m hoping to have my first start the second half of this season or next year when three of the starting horsemanship girls graduate this year,” she said.
Until then the Moncks Corner native will continue to work hard and invest her sweat equity in her collegiate riding career. In 2012, Southard became the first South Carolina native to sign a riding scholarship with the Gamecocks.
The team’s ranking marks the first time since April 2013 that the Gamecocks sit atop the equestrian rankings.
South Carolina set a number of team records during the fall portion of the schedule. The Gamecocks’ six fall wins is a team record, along with the number of consecutive meets in which they have won nine or more points. Dating back to last season, South Carolina has posted nine or points in 14 of their last 15 dual meets. This year’s team also set a record for most points won in three, four, five, six, seven, and eight consecutive meets.
A number of individual riders received SEC and NCEA recognition during the fall.
Senior Johnna Letchworth and junior Katherine Schmidt were named NCEA Riders of the Month in September. The two were also honored by the NCEA a month later with the same recognition, along with sophomore Samantha Smith as the Gamecocks won three-of-four national riders of the month in October. Schmidt and Letchworth were also named SEC Riders of the Month for October, and junior Layla Choate was named SEC Rider of the Month for November.
The Gamecocks begin spring competition on Feb. 1, when South Carolina travels to face New Mexico State. South Carolina will host a pair of regular season meets in the spring, and then Mar. 28-29, the Gamecocks will host the 2014 SEC Championship at One Wood Farm in Blythewood.