From left to right are Tracey Lightner, Tara Donohue, Katie Schaaf, Kristin Douglas, Irene Peluso and Amanda Horn, each of whom competed in the Reunion Fences division at the Alumni Tournament of Champions horse show in Ringoes, New Jersey on June 3rd. Douglas, a 2006 College of William and Mary graduate, had a better test than 2000 Tufts University graduate Schaaf to take first place in the class.


Ringoes, NJ - The hunter seat version of the Alumni Tournament of Champions series has now turned seven. The western version of the ATOC is now five. Four of the seven hunter seat events have been held in the state of New Jersey while two of five western meets have been held in Pennsylvania.

The fourth, fifth and sixth seasons of the ATOC had both disciplines at the same location, but while hunter seat remained at Briarwood Farm in Ringoes, New Jersey for the second season in a row the 2018 western event was held separately at Miami University of Ohio's Equestrian Center in Oxford, Ohio two weeks later (more on the western event later in this article).

The hunter seat event took place on Sunday, June 3rd and if you were there you might have felt the need for a winter coat at times. Temperatures never got above the mid-60's and wind chills kicked in much of the time. Though the jumping classes started the day outdoors the flat classes were held indoors and the difference in temperature was negligible moving from outside to inside.

The 2'3" fences division (the novice fences height for traditional IHSA shows) was the first class as has been tradition at most of the ATOC events. 16 riders competed, with three riders from the "I" states (in this case Indiana and Illinois) having traveled the furthest to compete. The division was won by Nassau Community College graduate Francisca Martinez, who had placed third in the same division a year earlier. Martinez is now one of a handful of riders to have won more than once at a ATOC event. Last year Martinez won the Alumni Flat division. Two 2017 graduates making their ATOC debuts placed second and third, respectively. Stonehill College graduate Emily Blanchard was the reserve champion while Nazareth College alum Emily Loiodice was third. Four riders were tested (Jessie Ann Bolash, previously a member of both the Hofstra University and Illinois State University equestrian teams - with a degree from the latter - was fourth) and Martinez's score of '82' from judge Donna Martin had her ahead going into the test.

25 riders took part in the 2'6" fences which followed (the intermediate fences height at a traditional IHSA show). 2017 Ithaca College graduate Lianna Reis had the second-best judge's score with an '81' prior to testing. However Reis was able to surpass Ali Malcanas of Bethany College and her '82' during the testing phase. Reis won the blue ribbon, keeping Malcanas from winning the exact same class two seasons in a row. 2016 State University of New York at Cobleskill graduate Barbara Whyte was third was a score of '80' in her ATOC debut. Though she did not place 1990 Dartmouth College graduate Stacy Klein become the first of only two riders on the day to continue a noteworthy streak. Klein and Delaware Valley University graduate Tracey Lightner (who would compete in her first class of the day two classes later) are now the only two riders who can say they competed in at least one hunter seat class at each of the seven ATOC events held for the English divisions.
2017 Ithaca College graduate Lianna Reis poses near the list of sponsors at the 2018 Alumni Tournament of Champions. Among the sponsors on June 3rd were Mane Jane, Huntley Equestrian, Lund Saddlery, Equicube, former IHSA Alumni Rider Sandra Sayre, Perri's Leather and even Campus Equestrian. Though the standard holding up the list of sponsors seems sturdy enough the wind later blew it over on one occasion. Reis was a blue ribbon winner in the 2'6" fences division.

Though listed as class six, riders in the over fences phase of the Future Alumni Cup class were the third group to participate. Judge's scores were not announced for this class. However six of the fourteen entries would be invited back to test on the flat. To compete in a "Futures" division a rider must have graduated during the current season or have used up eight semesters of eligibility or have made it official that they will no longer be competing in undergraduate divisions at traditional IHSA shows prior to graduating. Therefore every year the field for this division has complete turnover from the year before. While the division was completed roughly three-quarters of the way through the schedule, riders had to wait almost until the end of the show to find out the order of the top six (save for the regular Alumni Cup division six ribbons are awarded at the end of each class at an ATOC event). The winner of the 2018 Future Alumni Cup is Logan Farley of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Farley was a standout in Zone 4, Region 5 during her senior year, finishing second to Francisco Caba Guil of Emory and Henry College in the open rider standings while advancing individually to 2018 Zone 4 Zones in open fences. Allison Mello of Seton Hill University was the reserve champion, finishing a season in which Seton Hill won their second consecutive Zone 2, Region 5 region title and second such title in program history. Another Zone 2, Region 5 rider, Emilie Dumbach of Slippery Rock University, was third. Dumbach competed at Zone 2 Zones in individual open over fences. Rachel VanDemark of Rutgers University was the only rider entered in the division who also could claim to have led her region's open rider standings this past season. VanDemark, who reached Zone 3 Zones in individual open flat, placed fourth. While Megan Rota of the State University of New York at Albany did not ride in the open divisions at a Zones show, Rota was fifth in individual intermediate flat at Zone 2 Zones and fifth in the 2018 Alumni Cup. Rounding out the ribbons was Lydia Drabik of Penn State University in sixth. Drabik was one of four Nittany Lions to compete in the 2018 futures class at the ATOC.

Coincidentally sixteen riders competed in the Reunion Fences division. Reunion Fences is open to entries who did not show alumni at an official IHSA event during the past season. Surprisingly only three riders were returnees from last seasons' Reunion Fences, though Lightner had shown during the 2017 ATOC event in the divisions relevant to riders who had shown in the IHSA during that season. This season Lightner did not show during the regular season thus her appearance here which resulted in sixth place. 2006 William and Mary College graduate Kristin Douglas won the Reunion Fences. Though now living not all that far from Briarwood Farm Douglas was one of three riders who rode in Zone 4 as an undergraduate to win a class at the 2018 Tourney. The reserve champion was Tufts University graduate Katie Schaaf. The former head coach at her alma matter just missed winning her second blue ribbon at a tournament event. In her only other ATOC appearance, Schaaf won the reunion flat three seasons ago. Third in the division was former Fairfield University rider Irene Peluso, who was one of four riders tested.

From left to right are Emily Blanchard, Jessie Ann Bolash, Megan Mendenhall, Maggie Gordon, Francisca Martinez and Juliana Cipressi. This group comprises the top six in the Alumni Flat. After twice finishing second in classes at prior ATOC events, former Lehigh University rider Gordon finally won a blue ribbon.

The final class to require riders to jump a fence was the Alumni Cup. Known as Class Five in the class list, this was in fact the fifth class of the day - or at least the fences phase was. The flat phase test would be the final class of the afternoon - or early evening as the show ended just after 6:00PM local time. Though only six riders took part in that test, this one particular division would be pinned to eighth place rather than sixth. Riders from Zone 3 would monopolize five of the top six ribbons and there would be another 'recent' common thread for these competitors. Eryn Ziegler, formerly of Cedar Crest College, showed in Zone 3, Region 4 during 2017-18 (eventually reaching Zones in alumni fences) and was awarded fifth place. Though we are announcing it here Carolynn Mulder had already earned a third in one of the alumni flat divisions prior to learning her fate in the alumni cup. The former Siena College rider had also ridden in that same 2018 Zone 3 Zones alumni fences class as Ziegler. Also a Zone 3, Region 4 regular for half a decade, Mulder was fourth in the alumni cup. Katie Diaz, two seasons removed from her senior year at West Chester University, placed third. Riding in Zone 3, Region 2 for six consecutive seasons, Diaz had placed fourth in that same Zone 3 Zones alumni fences class. The Reserve Champion not only bested Diaz, Mulder and Ziegler at Zone 3 Zones in Alumni fences she even won the class at both Zones and 2018 IHSA Nationals. 2014 Delaware Valley University graduate Chelsea Koerper nearly kept her run of blue ribbons going. The 2018 IHSA National champion in alumni fences was second to Kayleigh Burke of Virginia Tech. A 2015 graduate, Burke won the alumni fences at 2018 Zone 4 Zones and later finished ninth at Nationals in the class Koerper won (however Burke was the 2016 IHSA National Champion in alumni flat). Making her Alumni Tournament debut, Burke won the Alumni Cup to give Zone 4, Region 5 riders a sweep of the 2018 Cups awarded on this day. During 2017-18 both Burke and Farley rode in the region made up of schools in the western halves of North Carolina and Virginia. Both winners stretched the geography of ATOC Cup winners, as no one who either graduated from a school south of the state of Pennsylvania or had showed in a region south of Pennsylvania had claimed first place in a hunter seat alumni cup class prior to this day.

Technically the sixth class of the day was the first to feature only flat work. The Reunion Flat was the second largest class of the day, trailing only the 2'6" alumni fences (which was made up of 25 riders) while boasting three more entries than the Alumni Cup. The division was conducted in two heats, with six riders eventually called back to test. The third place ribbon went to Schaaf while second went to former Virginia Tech Hokie Katie Gehrt. Had Gehrt won Zone 4, Region 5 would have claimed three blue ribbons for the day. Nevertheless Gehrt was ecstatic for both Farley and Burke's wins (which were not yet known at the time). The Reunion Flat Champion turned out to be Molly Jean McElroy of Wilson College. A 2017 graduate of the school located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, McElroy is the second Wilson rider to win an ATOC class in the seven year history of the events. 2015 ATOC Cup Winner Megan Mendenhall not only went to Wilson she has now been head coach of the Phoenix for three full seasons. Mendenhall - who was McElroy's coach for two seasons (and the 2018 Zone 3 Zones Champion in Alumni Flat) - was on hand to compete in two alumni classes but not the Alumni Cup class she won three seasons ago.

Two flat classes remained, the Alumni Flat and the Advanced Alumni Flat. The first of the two was the 'regular' Alumni Cup. Mendenhall nearly went into the record books with another win but was second in the Alumni Cup to former Lehigh University open rider Maggie Gordon. Gordon had just missed blue ribbons at two prior ATOC events, having been second in 2'6" fences at the 2013 event in Long Valley, New Jersey and a red ribbon winner again in 2017 in the Alumni Cup class behind Tara Mathews of UConn. Martinez was not far off the mark from having a second blue ribbon at today's show, placing third in Alumni Flat.

Maybe next season they will ride in the same alumni class within Zone 4, Region 5. Yet so far these two have not been in the same class together and that includes the ATOC event on June 3rd. Former Virginia Tech rider Kayleigh Burke (on left) has shown alumni in Zone 4, Region 5 for three years now. Logan Farley (on right) was a senior for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro this past season. On June 3rd Farley won the "Futures" Alumni Cup division which is made up of riders who graduated during the most recent season. Burke won the regular or traditional Alumni Cup, giving their region a sweep of the top two hunter seat awards (photo courtesy Katie Gehrt).

Though riders in the two-phased divisions which had started prior to Advanced Flat would not learn of where they placed until later, the top three riders in the Advanced Flat would in fact have their names announced twice in the latter part of the day. Twenty-one riders showed in the advanced flat with six invited by Judge Martin to test. Eventually third place went to Mulder, earning her best ribbon of the day. Malcanas was second, giving her two red ribbons on the day. Because she had a rather lengthy drive ahead of her, Malcanas left the show after receiving her red ribbons but before she had also been awarded eighth place in the Alumni Cup. Danielle Moraski of Binghamton University won the division in her ATOC debut. The 2017 Binghamton graduate gave Zone 2, Region 1 two blue ribbons for the day, as Reis prevailed earlier. Moraski was yet another rider who competed at a 2018 Zones show, riding in both alumni classes at Zone 2 Zones in Leonia, New Jersey on April 8th. Moraski was not done collecting ribbons on this windy day, as she would place sixth in the Alumni Cup (seventh place in the Alumni Cup went to Amy Benenson, a State University of New York at Albany graduate who now rides alumni on Long Island in the same region as Martinez. Thus all riders in the top eight of the 2018 Alumni Cup are mentioned in the article, though the complete placings for all classes are found below - Editor).

If the schedule holds up you heard it here first: Marist College head coach Clare Knapp was on hand to watch Lindsay Voak compete. Though she went to Rochester Institute of Technology Voak is from the area near LaGrangeville, New York where Knapps' Crosswinds Farm is located. Knapp also took the opportunity to try and book Zone 3, Region 3 into Briarwood (or Black River Farm as the property is also known) for a Fall 2018 show. Knapp found Briarwood owner Katie Benson, who already had some dates in place for other regions. Those dates are Rider University (in Zone 3, Region 2; coincidentally the team Katie Benson coaches) on Saturday, November 3rd as well as back-to-backs for Zone 3, Region 1 on Saturday, November 10th and Sunday, November 11th (host schools to be announced). Knapp and Benson seemed to be leaning toward Sunday, November 4th as an all-region show for Region 3 (where all nine schools act as co-hosts) though that was not set in stone to the best of this writer's knowledge.

Meanwhile Beth Johnson, the coach of Bethany College was able to confirm the first two shows of the year for Zone 2, Region 5. That group will kick off their season on Sunday, September 30th at Storm Harbor Equestrian Center in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania (with Slippery Rock University hosting) followed by a show on Sunday, October 14th at Bloomfield Stables in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania (with Seton Hill hosting). We forgot to ask Johnson if her Bethany had set a date for their show. Like Knapp, Johnson was on hand to see one of her riders - in this case Malcanas - compete.

Why is former Saginaw Valley State University rider Caitlin "Katy" Arthur pouting in this photo? Seen here at the 2016 Alumni Tournament of Champions event, Arthur and all the other Western riders had to wear English style helmets that day due to insurance purposes. In 2018 Arthur placed inside the top three at the Western Alumni Tournament in Oxford, Ohio on June 18th, including a second in advanced reining.

Two Sundays later the fifth Western Alumni Tournament of Champions event took place at the Miami University of Ohio Equestrian Center in Oxford. Ohio. Owing to the great distance from this writer's base in Central New Jersey it is the only ATOC event to date I did not see in person. From the results I received it appears that several high-profile IHSA western riders who have achieved a great deal of success at prior IHSA Nationals competitions as either undergraduates or alumni or both took home the majority of blue ribbons handed out in Southwestern Ohio. In her ATOC debut University of Tennessee at Knoxville graduate Allison Erkman won both the Alumni Horsemanship division which opened the 2018 Western show and Alumni Reining. Erkman previously won Alumni Western Horsemanship at 2014 IHSA Nationals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elisabeth Bianco was the 2012 IHSA National Champion in individual open reining in Raleigh, North Carolina and in 2018 the Ohio State graduate won the alumni reining class at Nationals again held in Harrisburg (does this make Bianco the first rider ever to win a Western Individual Class at an IHSA Nationals show and later win an Alumni Class at an IHSA Nationals Show? We are checking the record books - Editor). On June 17 Bianco won the Advanced Horsemanship while placing second in the Western Alumni Cup. The only rider with a individual AQHA High Point Open Rider trophy in her collection to compete at the 2018 Western ATOC was Michelle McDowell. The 2017 Grand Valley State University graduate won the Western Individual High Point award at 2016 Nationals in Lexington, Kentucky and won the top award at the 2018 ATOC. McDowell won the Western Alumni Cup, which is made up of both a Reining phase and a Rail phase. And we would be remiss if we did not mention that former Saginaw Valley State University rider Caitlin Arthur had a nice 2018 ATOC showing. Arthur was second in advanced reining while placing third in both advanced horsemanship and the Alumni Cup. Arthur is the only rider in IHSA history ever to win the same western alumni class at Nationals three straight years. Arthur won the Alumni Western Horsemanship division in 2015, 2016 and 2017. At the 2017 Nationals event (also held in Lexington) Arthur won both the Alumni Reining and the Alumni Western Horsemanship.

If they can do this at IHSA Nationals then why not for the Alumni Tournament?: The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) has sponsored the individual open reining class at every IHSA Nationals event this century (and many in the last one). The NRHA sponsored both of the Alumni Reining classes at the June 17th ATOC meet, the second year in a row the 52-year-old Oklahoma-based organization has done this.

Molly Jean McElroy of Wilson College (on left) won the Reunion Flat class in her ATOC debut on June 3rd. Seen with McElroy is Alumni Tournament series co-founder Lena Andrews Licata. Both Andrews Licata and the other co-founder, Jamie Windle, hold a social gathering the night before each ATOC event for riders and sponsors to meet and also to display the many ornate trophies that will be awarded the next day. the one

Last but not least if you visited for the results from either show you would have seen the results of a class called "High Point." This was not in fact a class held in a riding ring but rather an awards presentation where Alumni Tourament founders Lena Andrews and Jamie Windle gave out ribbons for the top rider in all combined regions using a formula. On the hunter seat side Tara Mathews of the University of Connecticut (who won the 2017 Alumni Cup) was determined to have won with the most points nationwide. Following Mathews from second through sixth were Erin Butler of Ball State University (one of the riders from the state of Indiana to compete in the tourament), Burke, Maddie Farlow of Washington College in Zone 3, Region 5, Emily Byczek of Indiana University (who had this honor even though she rides in the same region as Butler) and Koerper. On the western side the winner was Bianco of Ohio State followed by Rebecca Folk of Lafayette College, McDowell, Arthur, Sarah Todak of Ohio University and Cristen Cramer of Ohio State University. Astute readers will immediately notice that several of these Western riders compete in the same region: Bianco, Cramer and Todak all showed alumni in Zone 6, Region 2 this past season. However Andrews and Windle only give out ribbons to riders from Regions where those who keep points for a region send them the rider's final numbers for the year. Thus there may be an alumni rider somewhere this past season who did better than Mathews or Bianco but whose points never found their way to the tournament organizers. Then again maybe the people mentioned here were the best regardless.

--Steve Maxwell

The June 3rd Class-By-Class Results, listed in the order in which they were held. The Judge was Donna Martin:

2'3" Fences: 1. Francesca Martinez, Nassau Community College. 2. Emily Blanchard, Wheaton College. 3. Emily Loiodice, Nazareth College. 4. Jessie Ann Bolash, Illinois State University. 5. Jackie Clegg, Ball State University. 6. Michelle McQueen, Drew University.

2'6" Fences. 1. Lianna Reis, Ithaca College. 2. Ali Malcanas, Bethany College. 3. Barbara Whyte, State University of New York at Cobleskill. 4. Maggie Gordon, Lehigh University. 5. Chelsea Koerper, Delaware Valley University. 6. Alexis Worth Ballance, Kutztown University.

Future Alumni Cup (combined flat and fences phases): 1. Logan Farley, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 2. Allison Mello, Seton Hill University. 3. Emilie Dumbach, Slippery Rock University. 4. Rachel VanDemark, Rutgers University. 5. Megan Rota, State University of New York at Albany. 6. Lydia Drabik, Penn State University (State College).

Reunion Fences: 1. Kristin Douglas, College of William and Mary. 2. Katie Schaaf, Tufts University. 3. Irene Peluso, Fairfield University. 4. Tara Donohue, Stony Brook University. 5. Amanda Horn, Stonehill College. 6. Tracey Lightner, Delaware Valley University.

Hunter Seat Alumni Cup (combined flat and fences phases): 1. Kayleigh Burke, Virginia Tech. 2. Chelsea Koerper, Delaware Valley University. 3. Katie Diaz, West Chester University. 4. Carolynn Mulder, Siena College. 5. Erin Ziegler, Cedar Crest College. 6. Danielle Moraski, Binghamton University. 7. Amy Benenson, State University of New York at Albany. 8. Ali Malcanas, Bethany College.

Reunion Flat: 1. Molly Jean McElroy, Wilson College. 2. Katie Gehrt, Virginia Tech. 3. Katie Schaaf, Tufts University. 4. Amanda Horn, Stonehill College. 5. Tara Donohue, Stony Brook University. 6. Kelly Jones Knight, Moravian College.

Alumni Flat: 1. Maggie Gordon, Lehigh University. 2. Megan Mendenhall, Wilson College. 3. Francisca Martinez, Nassau Community College. 4. Jessie Ann Bolash, Illinois State University. 5. Juliana Marie Cipressi, Clarion University. 6. Emily Blanchard, Wheaton College.

Advanced Flat: 1. Danielle Moraski, Binghamton University. 2. Ali Malcanas, Bethany College. 3. Carolynn Mulder, Siena College. 4. Kristie Heitmann, Washington College. 5. Emily Byczek, Indiana University. 6. Lindsay Voak, Rochester Institute of Technology.

We admit this photo dates from 2012 IHSA Nationals when she won the NRHA-Sponsored individual open reining in Raleigh, North Carolina. Former Ohio State University open rider Elisabeth Bianco (holding the hatbox) won the advanced alumni horsemanship division at the ATOC event in Oxford, Ohio on June 17th. This win came less than two months after winning the Alumni Reining class at 2018 IHSA Nationals. At the ATOC Bianco was reserve champion in the two-phased Western Alumni Cup division.

The June 17th Class-By-Class Results, listed in the order in which they were held. The Judge was Jessica Daniels.

Alumni Horsemanship: 1. Allison Erkman, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 2. Michelle Mohr, Tarleton State University. 3. Olivia Seaman, Ferris State University. 4. Kaitlin Lorman, Lake Erie College. 5. Lee Levine, State University of New York at Cobleskill. 6. Christa Bramberger, State University of New York at Cobleskill. 7. Petra Szymkowicz, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Advanced Horsemanship: 1. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio State University. 2. Michelle McDowell, Grand Valley State University. 3. Caitlin Arthur, Saginaw Valley State University. 4. Sarah Todak, Ohio University. 5. Meghan Gennings, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 6. Kimberly King Storey, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 7. Joanne Coniglio, Delaware Valley University.

Alumni Reining: 1. Allison Erkman, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 2. Michelle Mohr, Tarleton State University. 3. Christa Bramberger, State University of New York at Cobleskill. 4. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State College. 5. Olivia Seaman, Ferris State University. 6. Petra Szymkowicz, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 7. Lee Levine, State University of New York at Cobleskill.

Advanced Reining: 1. Kimberly King Storey, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 2. Caitlin Arthur, Saginaw Valley State University. 3. Sarah Todak, Ohio University. 4. Meghan Gennings, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 5. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio State University. 6. Joanne Coniglio, Delaware Valley University. 7. Michelle McDowell, Grand Valley State University.

Western Alumni Cup (combined reining and rail phases): 1. Michelle McDowell, Grand Valley State University. 2. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio State University. 3. Caitlin Arthur, Saginaw Valley State University. 4. Cristen Cramer, Ohio State University. 5. Kimberly King Storey, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 6. Allison Erkman, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 7. Sarah Todak, Ohio University. 8. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State College.

Western Future Alumni Cup (combined reining and rail phases): 1. Lydia Yount, Miami University of Ohio. 2. Kelsey Prosch - Jensen, Grand Valley State University. 3. Catherine Lach, Ohio State University.


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