It was one of only two classes pinned to eighth place on June 2nd and the only one
in Ringoes, New Jersey. From left to right are Julie Bigham, Danielle Moraski, Tara Mathews, Katie Diaz, Kayleigh Burke, Heather
Ercolano, Erica Green and Sarah Lent. This group made up the top eight in the Hunter Seat Alumni Cup class with former Virginia
Tech rider Burke winning the division for the second year in a row.
BIANCO, BURKE, SCHAAF AND MATHEWS ADD TO THEIR LEGACY AT JUNE 2ND ALUMNI TOURNAMENT EVENTS
Ringoes, NJ/Oxford, OH - Trying to cover the Alumni Tournament of Champions
events in 2019 was more challenging than usual, as the hunter seat classes and
western classes were held on the same day but over 400 miles apart.
While Briarwood Farm at Black River Farm in Ringoes, New Jersey set a record
for becoming the first site to host an Alumni Tournament event three times the
Miami University of Ohio Equestrian Center in Oxford, Ohio hosted western for
the second season in a row. This also is a record as none of the first four
sites used for western from 2014-17 had been visited a second time so far.
Out in Ohio a record number of Western entries signed up to compete. One of
them is former Ohio State University rider Elisabeth Bianco. Seemingly a
fixture at IHSA Nationals for most of this decade, Bianco won the advanced
horsemanship division on June 2nd while placing second in the western alumni cup
to another former Ohio State rider in Catherine Lach. If you have a great
memory then you might think you are reading about the 2018 Western Tournament of
Champions, for Bianco earned the exact same ribbons at the 2018 event the
previous June 17th.
Meanwhile in New Jersey several riders with previous wins at ATOC events
earned the right to put their names onto perpetual trophies for a second time.
In the case of the Hunter Seat Alumni Cup former Virginia Tech rider Kayleigh
Burke now has her name on the same trophy two years in a row! Burke was third
through the jumping phase, having received a score of '79' from judge Maria
Takacs. Burke's flat phase ride and the call-back elevated her over former
West Chester University rider Katie Diaz (an '81' over fences, the top jumping
score in the division) and former Stony Brook University rider Heather Ercolano
(an '80' over fences) to claim the most prestigious victory of the day.
|2017 Washington and Lee University graduate Ashley Ooms poses near the list of sponsors after having won
the Reunion Fences division. Ooms received the top judge's score in the division with an '82' and held the top spot after testing.
Two seasons ago Tara Mathews was the 2017 hunter seat Alumni Cup champion.
In 2019 Mathews won the advanced flat division. With 20 entries the advanced
flat turned out to be the largest class of the day at either location for
alumni who showed IHSA at least once in 2018-19. A former Cacchione
qualifier with the University of Connecticut (she rode in the division at
2008 Nationals in Burbank), Mathews recently made history by becoming the
first IHSA rider ever to win both an alumni western and a hunter seat alumni
class at IHSA Nationals. The former Tara Lynch won alumni flat and alumni
western horsemanship on May 4th in Syracuse, New York prior to today's
advanced flat win. Mathews, who has been part of the Mount Holyoke College
coaching staff the past several seasons, also was given the High Point
award on June 1st. This award is given out at a pre-show social gathering
to the rider with the most combined alumni flat and fences points for the
2018-19 IHSA regular season. This was the second season in a row that
Mathews received this honor. We would be
remiss if we did not mention Mathews won the 2015 2'6' fences division,
giving her at least one blue ribbon in three of the past five hunter seat
Former Tufts University rider (and later head coach) Katie Schaaf will
for the time being have the ATOC record for gaps between blue ribbons at
one of their events. Schaaf first rode at an ATOC event in 2015, when she
won the Reunion flat division in Stevenson, Maryland. Though she just
missed winning the Reunion fences last season Schaaf won the 2'3" fences
division this season. Normally this division is limited to riders who made
at least one IHSA regular season appearance during the past season but due
to a smaller than expected number of entries the class was
opened up to those who might otherwise ride in Reunion fences (which would
have meant jumping 2'6"). The first alumni tournament was held in 2012 (an
English-only event as western alumni events did not commence until 2014). With this only the
eighth hunter seat alumni event there had not been any riders with a
four-year gap between firsts until Schaaf's win today. Judge Takacs
was especially impressed with Schaaf's jumping, for her score of '83' was
the highest announced score for any rider in Ringoes on the 2nd.
|Sandra Sayre's daughter (on far left) can claim that her Mother (second on right) has won more alumni classes
at IHSA Nationals than anyone in the IHSA's 52 year history. Three times a winner in alumni flat and twice in alumni fences,
Sayre sponsored the alumni flat class at the ATOC in Ringoes and got to present the blue ribbon to Drew University graduate
Michelle McQueen (second on left). On the far right is Karen Sykes, the Drew head coach from 2001 to 2019 and for four of those
years McQueen's coach. Sayre and Sykes were also teammates at Drew around 1990.
Each of the other five winners at Briarwood took home a blue ribbon at
an ATOC event for the first time. West Chester University had four former
riders entered and while Diaz came up just short of a blue her former
teammate Vanessa Lempicky was able to seal the deal. A 2016 graduate,
Lempicky won the Reunion flat (made up of 23 riders, thus the largest
class of the day) and nearly won the Reunion fences as well during what was
her ATOC debut. Two other former West Chester riders, Mackenzie Haverdink
and Shauna Stanley rode in the Reunion flat with Lempicky. Stanley was also
in the ribbons in the division, placing fifth. Schaaf was the runner-up.
Like Schaaf, Lempicky herself was nearly a double-blue winner. However
she was bested in Reunion Fences by 2017 Washington and Lee University
graduate Ashley Ooms. Ooms had the top judge's score in Reunion fences with
an '82' to edge out Lempicky's '80.' No other rider among the field of 18
reached the 80's. Ooms was one of two Washington and Lee riders entered in
the division. 2014 graduate Claire Stevenson was out of the ribbons here
but later earned a fourth in the Reunion flat.
Schools with Washington in their name produced two of the winners at
Briarwood. The first division of the day to be held was the 2'6" fences.
Rori Fiebert, a 2012 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis earned a
judge's score of '81' as the twelfth rider to go out of 20 entries. The top
judge's score went to Wilson College graduate (and current Wilson coach)
Megan Mendenhall with a '82' (second to go). Mendenhall, who was second to
Mathews in the overall high point award given out on June 1st, was the only
rider entered who also rode at the inaugural Alumni Tournament of
Champions in 2012. The top four were tested in each of the jumping classes
and Fiebert moved up into the lead during the test (canter fence one,
canter fence three, halt, trot fence seven, canter fence six and sit to the
trot back to the gate). This was Fiebert's first appearance at an ATOC
event. One of Fiebert's former teammates, 2010 graduate Arielle Hoffman,
was sixth in Reunion fences.
|West Chester University graduate Vanessa Lempicky nearly won twice on
June 2nd. Lempicky was second to Ooms in the reunion fences and is seen here with her
blue ribbon won in the reunion flat later in the day.
With one scratch there were only five riders entered in the future
alumni cup division. Each of the 2019 graduates jumped following the
conclusion of the 2'6" fences and flatted prior to the traditional
alumni cup flat classes (which were run in heats due to the size).
Chloe Hoerner, who was part of the Long Island University - C.W. Post
College team that won their third consecutive Zone 2, Region 4 Region
Title this season, received a score of '81' while Justine Perrotti of
Lafayette College received a score of '78.' No other riders scored
higher than a '71.' Unsurprisingly when the placings were announced
Hoerner won while Perrotti (a 2019 Nationals qualifier in
intermediate fences) was the reserve champion.
Riders who showed alumni during the IHSA regular season who are
not confortable competing at the advanced flat level compete instead in
what is known simply as the 'Alumni Flat. For the past few seasons
this division has been sponsored by former Drew University rider Sandra
Sayre, who was on hand to present the award to whoever might win the
class. One of the ten riders entered was former Drew University
rider (and current Drew volunteer assistant coach) Michelle McQueen. Also on
hand to watch was Karen Sykes, a 1991 Drew graduate and former teammate
of Sayre who just recently stepped down as the Drew head coach after 18
seasons (plus eight more as the assistant coach). One of the reasons
Sykes was on hand is that she was to pick up a horse named "Minnie"
whom she was aquiring from Briarwood if we were informed correctly.
Minnie was used in the show and by coincidence is the horse that
McQueen drew for the alumni flat. And in yet another coincidence
McQueen went on to win the class on her former coach's new horse! It
should be noted that Sayre is not always on hand to present this
award which made the gathering of former Drew riders in the winner's
circle all the more impressive.
|One of the class sponsors was also a competitor at Briarwood. Tufts University graduate Gale Pollack (on far left) sponsored
the 2'6" fences. Pollack did not jump on June 2nd but showed in the reunion flat division. By graduating in 1982 Pollack can claim to be the
alumni rider with the earliest graduation date of anyone to ever show at an ATOC event, knocking 1984 College of St. Elizabeth graduate
Sandy Rose (not pictured) out of the record books. Pollack also traveled the furthest to compete on June 2nd, coming up from the Tampa, Florida
area. Winning the 2'6" fences was former Washington University in St. Louis rider Rori Fiebert (third from right), who like Pollack was making
her debut at an ATOC event.
After having seen Western numbers go down in 2017 the decision to
move the Western portion of the ATOC to Oxford, Ohio has provided a
boost. Numbers were up last season and in 2019 a new record was set with
almost 40 riders entered. Several schools with a noteworthy history of
sending western IHSA riders to Nationals are located within a day's
driving distance of the Miami University of Ohio Equestrian Center.
Schools such as Ohio State, Grand Valley State, Alfred University,
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Miami of Ohio had
multiple graduate riders entered in the show. The first two schools
mentioned here had the most success. 2018 Buckeye graduate Lach (whose
last name is pronounced "Lock") won the multi-phased Western Alumni Cup
class in her ATOC debut as well as taking the blue ribbon in alumni
horsemanship. Bianco, who graduated before Lach was of college age,
gave Ohio State three of the six blue ribbons with her win in advanced
horsemanship. Grand Valley State riders won twice as Kelsey
Prosch-Jensen took home the blue in alumni reining while Laura Zemaitis
won the future alumni cup (the one division that still needs some
growth; The ability to entice those who show in IHSA Reining classes
and who are also seniors is always the key to how many sign up to
compete in this multi-phase division). Rounding out the list of blue
ribbon winners was Lexi Buckheit of Alfred University. A 2015 graduate
of the school located in Western New York State, Buckheit prevailed in
the advanced reining division.
The Facebook post that captured the spirit of the ATOC series:
If you read the class-by-class results at the end of this story you
will see that Andrea LaManque of Morrisville State College placed sixth
in alumni reining. LaManque was of great importance outside the
ring at the Western ATOC show. Initially offering to be of help,
LaManque was basically in charge of the Western event on June 2nd.
With ATOC series founders Lena Andrews and Jamie Windle both at the
hunter seat event LaManque was involved in every facet of the Western
event as well as the pre-show social gathering. Following the show
LaManque wrote an endearing Facebook post on the ATOC Facebook page to
talk almost as much about her enjoyment of the event as the event
itself. Among others LaManque referenced Andrews, Windle and former
SUNY - Cobleskill
riders Lee Levine and Christa Bramberger (who ride against LaManque
during the regular season within Zone 2, Region 3), who traveled from
Upstate New York to Ohio with LaManque. LaManque gave us permission to
re-post her Facebook piece. Here is her post with some minor editing:
|Seen here at 2019 IHSA Nationals after placing fifth in alumni western horsemanship on May 4th, Kelsey
Prosch-Jensen faired much better in the Alumni Tournament Western divisions on June 2nd in Oxford, Ohio. The former Grand
Valley State rider won Alumni Reining, was second in Alumni Horsemanship and placed fourth in the Alumni Cup.
"I always find it difficult to recap these shows because
there's always so much to say. This will be lengthy; I apologize. I've said
it every year since the beginning: "This is my favorite show of the year!"
but it's true for so many reasons. The 2019 show was the largest Western
Alumni Tournament of Champions we have had to date (nearly double the number
of entries). The competition was fierce, the horses played well, and the
weather was perfect all day – truly couldn't have asked for a better day.
Huge shout out and thank you to Miami University (Beth Frey) for hosting the
show, their students for prepping & holding horses, Katie Finkes-Turner &
Patrick Schwarz for providing horses. Thank you to Mark King for
photographing the exhibitor party and the show – you're the best, and we
cannot wait to see your pictures! Thank you to the horses I drew; Larry &
Buckle for the Advanced & Cup Horsemanship classes; Half Pint, who helped me to
6th out of 12 in the NRHA Alumni Reining! And Mickey (who I was nervous to
ride because I was kinda intimidated by him last year and I really wanted to
scratch from my last class for the day, but thanks to several people who
persuaded me to go in anyway); might have been my best ride and we scored a
69 in the Sundial Cup Reining! Through the IHSA and this show I've been able
to compete against many strong riders and meet the incredible, supportive
women they are outside the ring. ATOC was created based on getting
collegiate equestrian alumni together, to meet new friends and stay connected
through having fun with the horses in IHSA Finals-esque shows. Yes, we can
always ride our best in hopes to win but exhibiting good sportsmanship should
always be just as (or more) important than the shows themselves.
Thank yous, of course, to Lee & Christa,
for being great travel buddies; this was our 5th ATOC/road trip/girls'
weekend. No matter where we go, it's always an adventure. Sometimes there's
sketchy hotels, or random food spots that end up being awesome, but we have
fun going to Rod's, and counting the broken-down cars and Jesus-y billboards
along the highway. I can't wait for next year's trip! Lastly, thank you,
thank you to Lena & Jamie for creating these amazing events. You ladies have
worked so hard to make these shows successful and I'm very grateful for it.
Back in August Lena asked if I would help with the social media posts on
Facebook and Instagram, and somewhere along the way I became the "go-to"
person for the Western shows. Happy to say I'll be back to assist in 2020!"
LaManque then added more the next day:
"I was super tired last night so... Edited to add: How could I
forget...Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors! What would we do
without you! We have some great people and companies that sponsored the
prizes for this show also! Nutrena Horse Feed, Sundial Show Clothing,
National Reining Horse Association, Intercollegiate Horse Show Alumni
Association, Bob's Custom Saddles, Best Ever Pads, SmartPak, KJ Creations,
Back on Track USA, FarmVet, Avon, The Fit Equestrian and of
course Crystal Cowen who sponsored the high score awards! Thank you
The June 2nd Hunter Seat Class-By-Class Results, listed in the order in
which they were held. The Judge was Maria Takacs:
2'6" Fences. 1. Rori Fiebert, Washington University in St. Louis.
2. Megan Mendenhall, Wilson College. 3. Heather Ercolano, Stony Brook
University. 4. Tara Mathews, University of Connecticut. 5. Ashleigh
Bieder, Binghamton University. 6. Melissa Korteweg, Amherst College.
Future Alumni Cup (combined flat and fences phases): 1. Chloe
Hoerner, Long Island University - C.W. Post College. 2. Justine Perrotti,
Lafayette College. 3. Carolyn Rosazza, Virginia Tech. 4. Autumn Ortiz,
West Virginia University. 5. Amanda Miller, Rider University.
Reunion Fences: 1. Ashley Ooms, Washington and Lee University.
2. Vanessa Lempicky, West Chester University. 3. Irene Peluso, Fairfield
University. 4. Hayley Menkins, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
5. Erin Centolanza, University of Kentucky. 6. Arielle Hoffman, Washington
University in St. Louis.
Hunter Seat Alumni Cup (combined flat and fences phases): 1. Kayleigh
Burke, Virginia Tech. 2. Katie Diaz, West Chester University. 3. Heather
Ercolano, Stony Brook University. 4. Tara Mathews, University of
Connecticut. 5. Erica Green, Washington and Jefferson College.
6. Danielle Moraski, Binghamton University. 7. Sarah Lent, Morrisville
State College. 8. Julie Bigham, University of Maryland.
2'3" Fences: 1. Katie Schaaf, Tufts University. 2. Hannah Goldbach,
American University. 3. Katy Hannon, Rochester Institute of Technology.
4. Juliana Cipressi, Clarion University. 5. Jessie Ann Bolash, Hofstra
University/Illinois State University. 6. Jess Benner, Kutztown
Reunion Flat: 1. Vanessa Lempicky, West Chester University.
2. Katie Schaaf, Tufts University. 3. Lauren Gould, Centenary
University. 4. Claire Stevenson, Washington and Lee University.
5. Shauna Stanley, West Chester University. 6. Jess Benner, Kutztown
Alumni Flat: 1. Michelle McQueen, Drew University. 2. Katy Hannon,
Rochester Institute of Technology. 3. Megan Mendenhall, Wilson College.
4. Ashley Bieder, Binghamton University. 5. Samantha Trace, Westfield
State University. 6. Juliana Cipressi, Clarion University.
Advanced Flat: 1. Tara Mathews, University of Connecticut. 2. Katie
Diaz, West Chester University. 3. Danielle Moraski, Binghamton
University. 4. Kayleigh Burke, Virginia Tech. 5. Ashton Phillips,
Virginia Intermont College. 6. Tracy Perry, Colby Community College.
|Seen here at 2015 IHSA Nationals, former Alfred University standout
Lexi Buckheit won the advanced reining division on June 2nd. Buckheit also placed fifth
in the advanced horsemanship division as well.
The June 2nd Western Class-By-Class Results (we are uncertain if
the classes were held in the order listed here).
Alumni Horsemanship: 1. Catherine Lach, Ohio State University.
2. Kelsey Prosch - Jensen, Grand Valley State University. 3. Laura
Zemaitis, Grand Valley State University. 4. Elizabeth Woznica, Alfred
University. 5. Michelle Mohr, Tarleton State University. 6. Petra
Szymkowicz, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Alumni Reining: 1. Kelsey Prosch - Jensen, Grand Valley State
University. 2. Laura Zemaitis, Grand Valley State University.
3. Elizabeth Woznica, Alfred University. 4. Catherine Lach, Ohio
State University. 5. Michelle Mohr, Tarleton State University.
6. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State College.
Advanced Reining: 1. Lexi Buckheit, Alfred University. 2. Michelle
McDowell, Grand Valley State University. 3. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio
State University. 4. Sarah Todak, Ohio University. 5. Amanda Belcher,
Murray State University. 6. Kelsey O'Shea, Cornell University.
Advanced Horsemanship: 1. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio State University.
2. Michelle McDowell, Grand Valley State University. 3. Kimberly
Storey, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 4. Meghan Ashbrook,
Miami University of Ohio. 5. Lexi Buckheit, Alfred University.
6. Sarah Todak, Ohio University.
Western Future Alumni Cup (combined reining and rail phases):
1. Laura Zemaitis, Grand Valley State University. 2. Sarah Borgeit,
University of Findlay.
Western Alumni Cup (combined reining and rail phases):
1. Catherine Lach, Ohio State University. 2. Elisabeth Bianco, Ohio
State University. 3. Michelle McDowell, Grand Valley State University.
4. Kelsey Prosch - Jensen, Grand Valley State University. 5. Kimberly
Storey, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 6. Amanda Belcher,
Murray State University. 7. Elizabeth Woznica, Alfred University.
8. Alison Rassinoux, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.