Parker, Colorado. Team Day at Young Riders is long and stressful, yet exciting. Not only do the horses and riders have to jump a difficult, long championship course, they have to do it twice. For many riders this is their first opportunity to experience the pressures and rewards of riding on a team, and the Zone 10 kids, sponsored by Great American Insurance looked like pros.
The Juniors led off first thing in the morning, and the water jump proved to be the biggest challenge. Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. not only provided a related distance, he did not intend to make the distance tricky. "The juniors need more practice riding water," said Petersen. "Even with a related distance they had a difficult time." The rest of the course proved challenging as well and it wasn’t until the 31st rider (out of 33) that anyone saw a clean round. Zone 10's Lucy Davis executed a smooth, efficient ride aboard Mister Mind and posted the first zero on the scoreboard.
The Zone 10 juniors, sponsored by Great American Insurance, went into the second round in second place behind the Canadian team comprised of riders from Alberta and Ontario.
After a brief rest, the juniors returned for the second round. With settled nerves and experience over the course, five riders posted fault-free rounds, and Davis did it for a second time. Both Annie Cook and Savannah Carr were fault free, which added nothing to their first round score of 16. Alec Lawler had the drop score in both rounds. The Canadians could not match the consistency of the Zone 10 riders and settled for the silver medal, with the Mexico - South taking the bronze. The Great American Zone 10 team led the victory gallop as gold medalists.
Today’s team competition also served as the second and third qualifying rounds for the Individual Championship, and with three clear rounds Davis is in the lead. Tied for second with eight faults is Annie Cook and Navonah Galegos who represents Zone 8, but spends much of her time showing in California. Savannah Carr is in 6th with 12 twelve faults. Both Lawler and Shelby Wakeman will ride in the Farewell Class for non-individual qualifiers on Saturday.
With the Juniors setting the pace, the Zone 10 Young Rider team, also sponsored by Great American Insurance, had their work cut out for them. In addition, they are the defending champions. Once again Karl Cook rode anchor, being a veteran from the 2007 gold medal team, and Hannah Selleck led off. This choice proved fortuitous. Hannah Selleck posted only one of two four fault rounds, the best scores of the first round. Teammate Paige Dotson was the other four faulter of the round. At the end of the first round, the jury decided the score was: Course Designer: 32 and Riders: 0. For the Great American Zone 10 team, Sophie Benjamin incurred 12 faults and Karl Cook had 8. Despite a team total of 16 faults, the Zone 10 team was significantly ahead of the other teams. The course proved difficult, and all those weeks of jumping tracks bigger than High Junior Jumper Classes paid off for the Zone 10 team. Many horses and riders from other teams were over faced.
The Great American Zone 10 Young Rider team had the luxury of going last in the rotation for the second round, and Selleck buoyed spirits when she posted the first clear round of the day. In the second rotation, Sarah Tredennick of Zone 8 posted one of five clears of the day and Zone 10's Paige Dotson followed suit. With no penalties so far, Zone 10 had a comfortable lead at the end of the second rotation. In the third rotation, Benjamin had 16 faults with Marga, yet Zone 10's lead was so strong that even if Karl Cook had not ridden the team was assured the gold medal. There was no way any team could catch them at that point. However, individual points were still on the line.
Meagan Nusz of the combined Zone 7 & 9 posted the fourth clear round, and then Cook went as the last of the class. Notories Utopia jumped great and they logged the fifth and final clear round of the day.
After the Star Spangled Banner played for the second time in the day, individual standings were announced for the Sunday championship and Zone 10 held the top three spots. Dotson is in first with 6.73 points and Selleck is in second with 7.76 points. Cook is in third with 8.00 points, Tredennick (Zone 8) is in fourth with 12.09 points, and Meagan Nusz (Zones 7 & 9) rounds out the top five with 12.62 points. Those clear rounds really paid off and not much more than a rail separates the top five riders. Sophie Benjamin also qualified for the Individual Championship on Sunday.
With two rounds of jumping left over very difficult courses, the outcome is far from certain. However, it is certain that Zone 10 came prepared and ready to win.
For complete results and all the scores of the day, visit the NAJYRC website at: http://www.youngriders.org
Langer Equestrian Group, Inc. is pleased to be producing the NAJYRC on behalf of the United States Equestrian Federation. This is the third time LEG has produced the event, although LEG representatives Larry Langer, Charlotte Skinner, and Marnye Langer are involved with the event every year in various official capacities. The NAJYRC is the only international (FEI) championship held in North America.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/zone-10-gold-08-08.html">Zone 10 is Double Gold!</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com