There was a rose ceremony for the seniors at the appropriatly-named Rosewood Stables last August at what was the ninth hunter seat Alumni Tourament of Champions. There will be a few seniors competing at the 2021 ATOC, with most riding at their first IHSA-related show since early 2020.


Back in early 2012 Lena Andrews Licata, who was the alumni representative for IHSA Zone 3, Region 4 at the time, created an alumni page for her region on Facebook. Jamie Windle, who at the time was the alumni rep for what was then Zone 4, Region 4 (but today is Zone 3, Region 5) happened to see it. Jamie then reached out to Lena with an idea: How about a competition between the alumni from our two regions?

While Andrews Licata liked the idea conversations between the two eventually led to opening the competition up to alumni from regions in Zones 2, 3 and 4. Subsequently the two planned the first-such event for July of that year, and after getting in touch with then-Valley Forge Military College head coach and former University of Delaware rider Sara McCoy they were able to book the show for July 29th on the Valley Forge campus in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

At that time the state of Connecticut was in Zone 2 and it was from that area that the first Alumni Cup Champion rider was crowned. Former University of Connecticut standout Amy Kriwitsky won the inaugural cup class on a day which featured only 17 riders across five classes.

By 2018 almost 90 people competed in eight different classes in the seventh hunter seat ATOC. The show went on in August of 2020 in spite of the pandemic (with a slightly smaller turnout). It appears the total number of riders entered in 2021 will set a new record for the event.

And for the first time since 2017 the Western and English classes will be at the same location on the same day. In both 2012 and 2013 the ATOC was all-english, but in 2014 a separate inaugural Western ATOC took place at Red Wing Farm in Hilltown, Pennsylvania. 2021 will mark the eighth season that there has been a Western ATOC as well as an English event. The show will start at 8:15AM on Sunday, June 6th with the 2'6" fences division.

Andrews Licata wanted someplace special for the tenth Alumni Tournament (though technically next year will be the tenth anniversary of the first ATOC competition). Andrews was able to book what some call the United States Equestrian Team Headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey. Others may call it the United States Equestrian Team foundation while yet a few more may call it Hamilton Farm, which was the proper name for the facility before the USET made it their home base in 1961. All the olympians who represented the USA from 1964 through the end of the 1900's have taken part in events at the farm in Gladstone, which was originally part of James Cox Brady's estate purchased in 1911. The main stable, which features in nearly every photo of the USET Headquarters, was built in 1916. Unless Andrews Licata and Windle can persuade someone at either the Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC or Madison Square Garden in New York City to allow the Alumni to hold their events there this is probably as iconic a location as you will see the hunter seat part of the competition take place.

And as previously mentioned the Western Classes will be held at the USET headquarters as well. Classes will overlap between the two disciplines, with Western starting shortly after 2:00PM outdoors while most of the alumni flat will take place indoors simultaneously. The IHSA introduced Ranch Riding as an official western class in 2020-21, though only three regions actually held western shows since so many schools were operating remotely. Ranch riding will be the third western class of the day (hopefully starting just before 2:30PM) and will feature 16 entrees. This will likely make the alumni ranch riding class a larger field than was found at any of the regular season IHSA events.

There will be a hunter seat class also making it's ATOC debut. However it is unclear how often it will be held since it is a unique division if one can call it that. Andrews Licata came up with the idea to invite each of the riders who won the Alumni Cup at the first nine such hunter seat ATOC events to come back for the tenth show and ride against each other! The class has been dubbed the "Founders Battle," and considering how people move about, change employers, start families and even put riding on hold (sometimes permanently) it is close to a miracle that all eight of the previous winners are signed up and entered to compete (former Virginia Tech rider Kayleigh Burke won the Alumni Cup in both 2018 and 2019, which is why there are a total of only eight in the field). The over fences phase will take place outdoors shortly after 12Noon with the flat phase at roughly 6:00PM (yes these ATOC events run longer than most IHSA events). With western two years away from it's tenth such ATOC competition, one can only hope that there is a similar class for the past nine winners of the Western Alumni Cup.

The weather forecast is for sunny skies but unusually high temperatures for New Jersey at this time of year. A high of 93 is not out of the question. There will be a hydration station to provide water throughout the day. There will not be a food truck on the premises, so take that into consideration if you plan to attend for any great length of time.

And we would be remiss if we did not mention that the judges this year are both current IHSA head coaches. Michael Dowling, the co-coach of the Centenary University (NJ) hunter seat team will judge the English classes while Mount Holyoke College western coach Kelli Wainscott will judge Western. It will be the first time these two have judged at an Alumni Tournament Event.

--Steve Maxwell


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