St. Andrews Captures Semifinals Championship
Winning five of six team events, St. Andrews Presbyterian College captured the National Western Semifinals Championship on Sunday at the college's equestrian center in Laurinburg. St. Andrews advances to the national finals in Burbank, Calif., in mid-May.
Stanford University of Stanford, Calif., was the reserve champion while Michigan State University, of East Lansing, Mich., finished third. The top-three teams from three Semi Finals throughout the nation held this past weekend advance to the nationals.
"I am just so proud," said Carla Wennberg, St. Andrews western coach. "The kids worked so hard to put everything together. We had a great leader in Peggy McElveen (director of the St. Andrews Equestrian Center) and the students worked hard in preparing themselves and preparing our horses."
St. Andrews team members qualifying for the national championship are Alison Wrightenberry, Kelsey Moody, Erica Hill, Anne Neal Thompson, and Jessica Gesel. All five won their class during the weekend competition while Moody competed in one additional team class, taking third place.
Moody also qualified as an individual for the national finals in open horsemanship and open reining. She had previously qualified in the regionals for the American Quarter Horse Association high point rider competition.
Kayla Hay from St. Andrews also qualified for individual competition in intermediate horsemanship at the national level.
"The St. Andrews riders were well turned out and the top riders competitively in every class," said Bob Mowrey, who judged the event along with Debra Jones-Wright. As in other equestrian events, the school affiliation for the riders is unknown to the judges who concentrate on each rider's number, he said.
Mowrey is a professor and extension horse commodity coordinator at N.C. State in Raleigh. Jones-Wright owns and operates a horse business in the north Georgia area.
"We worked on the right things mentally and all of our prep work paid off," said Wennberg. "Really, it took all year for it all to come together today. Everybody was mentally and physically prepared and they really wanted to go to California for the national finals."
It will be the second appearance for the St. Andrews Western Team in the nationals. The program is in its third year as a competitive team, winning the regional title for all three years.
"Carla's expertise in all aspects of western horsemanship and reining has made her an extremely effective coach and teacher," said McElveen. "The program has come from nothing -- from a backyard grassroots program to a national power."
McElveen commented that the 2008 St. Andrews Western Team includes riders in the first class recruited by Wennberg.
"Growth in the program in the next few years will continue to amaze us," said McElveen. "As this team is successful, people will want to come and be a part of this team. It will result in recruiting more experienced competitors."
Teams advancing to the nationals from the other Western Semifinals are the University of Findlay, West Texas A&M, Oregon State University, Ohio State University, Alfred University and West Virginia University.
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