Centenary University hosted the Holiday Tournament of Champions invitational on December 2nd, and as the host they were allowed to enter two separate teams in the competition. Taylor Ernst of the Centenary Gold Team (center, a freshman from Grand Gorge, New York) poses with co-coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark after winning her limit over fences class. The Gold Team would finish fourth in a field of 18 teams (16 schools).


Long Valley, NJ - This time the field seemed tougher. This time the show was north of the Potomic River and east of the Ohio/Pennsylvania border for the first time since September of 2019, perhaps making it easier for some of the top schools located in the Northeast to travel to the event.

But at the end of the day the same school from the Southeastern United States that has dominated the Tournament of Champions invitational series had done it again. Thanks to firsts from Alexander Alston, Ryan Kenny, Madison Poulin and Hattie Bradford, Savannah College of Art & Design was the 2023 Holiday Tournament of Champions high point team. The holiday tourney is held every year in the month of December, and every December since 2017 (minus 2021 when covid prevented the event) SCAD has taken the team champion trophy home. And open rider Celia Cram won the high medal class for a fifth time (and her third straight at a Holiday TOC event) to put her into a tie with former SCAD rider Brady Martino for the most individual Medal Class Wins with five. Martino managed five wins in the low medal 2017-2020 and might have won more had covid not forced the cancelation of three events in 2020. Cram, from Aiken, South Carolina, is only a junior so the chance for a new overall record is very much in play.

The Bees were 44-37 winners over Reserve High Point Team Mount Holyoke College, and though the final score does not seem as lopsided as some of SCAD's other TOC wins over the past six years the school from Savannah, Georgia took the lead for good when Kenny won the first section of intermediate flat during only the sixth of 16 team classes held. Mount Holyoke had much of their success late in the contest, with blue ribbons awarded to Hallie Phillips in limit flat and Catherine Kazel in introductory equitation. Three other Lyons were second place winners, including Anno Kostava in the second section of novice equitation which was the last team class of the afternoon. Since September of 2017 only Mount Holyoke College and Emory and Henry College have outscored SCAD at a Touranment of Champions event, with the Lyons having done so in January of 2018 at a Winter TOC event in Coolville, Ohio.

Host Centenary University was one of two schools with two separate teams of eight riders among the larger-than-usual field of 18 teams (16 different schools). The Cyclones might have won had they merged their two teams, as the Centenary 'Blue' team was third with 30 points while Centenary 'Gold' was fourth with 29. Benjamin Hoban won the second section of open fences (one placing above Cram) to briefly put the Blue team into a tie with Skidmore for first place through the open fences division. While the Blue team was third overall the Centenary Gold team managed one more blue ribbon, as Aislinn Bermingham won her intermediate flat while Taylor Ernst was tops in her limit over fences.

Celia Cram of Savannah College of Art & Design is seen here after drawing "Lewis" for her open over fences class. The junior from Aiken, South Carolina would place second in open fences but win the High Medal Class at the end of the day for her fifth such win at a TOC event in roughly two years time.

Sophia Olivero won the section of open fences which started the day to put defending IHSA National Champion Skidmore College ahead early. Harper Sanford won her open flat to give the Thoroughbreds two blue ribbons on their way to 28 points and fifth place overall.

St. Lawrence University made their first appearance at a Tournament of Champions event in at least a decade, with their two teams placing sixth and eighth, respectively. Hudson Warren led the way for the Saint's 'Brown' team, placing first in intermediate over fences and second to Alston in open flat to earn 12 of the Brown teams' 25 points. The other St. Lawrence team was identified throughout the show program as their 'Scarlet' team. However on the back cover of the program where anyone with a pen could write in the placings and team totals since there was a grid with the all the schools and divisions listed the other SLU team was listed as the 'Red' team. In any event the Scarlet or Red team earned 23 points, with sophomore Cate Weis winning a blue ribbon in limit fences. Weis was not done winning blue ribbons on this day, as she would edge Bermingham for the Low Medal Championship ribbon later on.

Sandwiched between the two St. Lawrence teams in seventh place was Sacred Heart University. The Pioneers were high point team at the March 2023 Spring Tournament of Champions event (in which SCAD did not participate) and fifth at last season's Holiday event (and third at the '21 Holiday event). Kelly Mecatl duplicated her blue ribbon in introductory equitation that she won when the Holiday TOC was held at Virginia Tech last December to lead the way for the Pioneers. Sacred Heart scored 23 points to tie St. Lawrence Scarlet/Red but apparently won a tiebreaker perhaps involving points over fences.

From left to right are Mount Holyoke College head coach C.J. Law, Hallie Phillips of Mount Holyoke and Assistant Coach Morgan Lynch. From Santa Rosa, California, Phillips won her limit flat class to help the Lyons earn reserve high point team honors with 37 points. After extensive research it is safe to say that Mount Holoyoke has finished second three times at a TOC event since their last first place finish in January of 2018.

Between the other ten schools which participated there were only two blue ribbons spread among them. Team awards only went to eighth place at the Holiday Tournament, but had they gone to ninth Goucher College would have received that ribbon. And it was the Gophers who claimed the only two team blue ribbons not won by a school in the top eight. After a fall in her first attempt to navigate the intermediate fences Hayley Anderson was given a re-ride and proceeded to win section B of the division. Gouchers' Kristen Wilhelm and SCAD's Bradford have accomplished something unique: Both riders competed in the 'Winter' Tournament of Champions event held the first Saturday in May of 2021 (the weekend that the cancelled 2021 IHSA Nationals would have been held in Syracuse) and both won at that show and this one. While Bradford won limit fences in May of '21 and limit flat at Centenary Wilhelm won her blue ribbons in novice equitation both times. Coincidentally Bradford won her Holiday '23 blue in the class held directly before Wilhelm edged out Kostava to raise Goucher's total to 22 just behind Sacred Heart and St. Lawrence Scarlet/Red (Editor's note: Only four IHSA regions held regular season shows during the 2020-21 season due to covid. However there was one single TOC event held in May of 2021 due to interest among a great many schools to hold an actual "in-person" show. No TOC event before or since has ever been held this late in the season).

The Medal Classes serve as an alternate to a ride-off for high point rider. 18 riders are entered in both the high and low medal divisions, with nine riding on the flat in the 'A' section and nine more in the 'B' section. Then the judge - in this case Creigh Duncan of Princeton, New Jersey - called back ten high medal and ten low medal riders to jump. Centenary had both Bermingham in the low medal runner-up position and Molly Sowa in third. Weis, a sophomore from Newburyport, Massachusetts, finished the day undefeated with her low medal champion ribbon. Hoban was able to beat Cram once but not twice, placing third in the high medal. Warren finished the day with a first and two seconds, once again one rung on the ladder behind a SCAD bee. Cram's five high medal wins came at the '21 Holiday event in Westerville, Ohio; the '22 Winter classic at SCAD; the '22 Holiday event in Blacksburg, Virginia; the '23 Winter classic again at SCAD; and at Centenary on December 2nd. SCAD has settled into a reoccurring role of Winter TOC host, with the event scheduled for Saturday, January 27th. This will be the fourth season in a row that the Bees will host the Winter event. Cram seems to win these High Medal classes in pairs, though it should be noted she was second behind teammate Alston at the pre-season TOC in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana.

The cream of the crop: One of the criteria Tournament of Champions series founder Jim Arrigon uses to send out his invitations is 'did the school win a region title last season?' The idea is for the competition to be made up of as many first place schools as possible. Another criteria is "who is leading the region right now?" A third would be "who did the best at the two or three most recent IHSA Nationals events?" At the Holiday Tournament at Centenary eleven teams were Region Champions last season, and only Boston University within that group did not travel to Long Valley, New Jersey as a current first place team (the Terriers are third but still close to Endicott and Stonehill in Zone 1, Region 4). The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Marist College, Albion College and the University of Pittsburgh are all currently in second place in their respective regions, with Marist being in the same region as host Centenary (which has won 33 consecutive hunter seat Region Titles, the most consecutive in IHSA history save for Ohio State's run of Western titles). Albion and Pittsburgh are both trending upward, as neither had ever been in second place headed into the winter break. It was the first-ever appearenace for Pittsburgh at a TOC event. One other school in attendance was the University of Lynchburg. The Hornets head coach is Phillip Williamson, who rode for Centenary in the previous decade. Lynchburg is a member of Zone 4, Region 2, a region where the first place team has been known to change multiple times throughout the season. While Lynchburg might not be in the top two within Region 2 at the moment the school's NCEA single discipline team is the defending National Champion and is currently ranked number one in single discipline by the NCEA itself.

Of the eleven defending region champions the list included the defending IHSA National Champions (Skidmore), the defending Reserve National Champions (SCAD), the 2022 Reserve National Champions (Miami University of Ohio), the 2023 fifth place team at Nationals (Mount Holyoke College), a school with five region titles their past six seasons (Boston University), a school with six straight such titles (Sacred Heart), another with 11 straight (Goucher), another with 13 straight (St. Lawrence), another with 14 straight (Delaware Valley University), another with 20 straight (Penn State University) and the host school whose streak was already discussed. .

Skidmore College juniors Kenya Sanders (on left) and Harper Sanford (on right) pose with head coach Belinda Colgan after Sanford's win in open on the flat. Sanders went on to place fourth in the high medal class while Skidmore was fifth overall with 28 points.

Corrected information on SCAD's TOC Series 'Streak' (and the longest paragraph ever on Campus Equestrian): If you go back to January of 2018 at a time when two Tournament of Champions invitational events were held on consecutive weekends (since the Spring event was on hiatus for over a decade but Arrigon wanted to host four TOC events per season if possible) the SCAD Bees won the the second of two events. A week after Mount Holyoke won 36-35 over SCAD at Stonegate Farm on January 20th the host Bees were first and second, respectively, thanks to their BEE-lieve team scoring 46 and their BEE-strong team 35 at their Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center on January 27, 2018. Then in September of 2018 it became a streak as SCAD's Team Bumble won 36-33 over the University of South Carolina in Lynchburg, Virginia (Randolph College hosting). Following the Pre-Season Tourney SCAD - with only one team present - blew out the field in Westerville, Ohio on December 1st of 2018. The Bees were 44-30 winners over Miami of Ohio and host Otterbein University, the latter third by way of a tie-breaker. In January of 2019 SCAD made TOC series history, becoming the first team ever to sweep an entire season's group of TOC shows. Only three were held in 2018-19, with SCAD's Team Bumble scoring a 43-41 victory over Bridgewater College at Hazelwild Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia (University of Mary Washington hosting) in what was called "Winter II" though there was no winter I a week earlier. Then the win streak carried into 2019-20, with SCAD (just one team) earning a 43-35 win over Mount Holyoke Team Lyons (there was also a Mount Holyoke Team Yoke that day) at the Pre-Season Classic hosted by the University of Connecticut at their Horsebarn Hill Arena that September. In December of 2019 Penn State University hosted the Holiday Tournament at the Grier School in Tyrone, Pennsylvania. More TOC series history was made, as SCAD scored 54 of a possible 56 points to win by 18 over runner-up Mount Holyoke. This was (and still is) the most points scored by any school at a Tournament of Champions series event (not counting the idea of taking two teams and combining their points). SCAD hosted the next TOC event, what was supposed to be the third of four such events in 2019-20 but was ultimately the last. On January 25, 2020 SCAD hosted again and won again, and just like in January of 2018 they had the top two scores. Their Team Bee Power won by a point 50-49 over Bee Strong (UMass - Amherst was third with 32). If you are counting SCAD has won seven in a row at this moment. Then covid hit and the Spring TOC at Findlay was cancelled. The 'Winter' show in May of 2021 was next, with SCAD making it eight straight. In a field which included the invented team called "Saint Gopher of the Southern Georgia Woods" (overflow members of Goucher, St. Mary of the Woods and Georgia Southern University who wanted to compete) but only eight actual schools SCAD's Bee Strong team tied the school record with 54 points while Bee Lieve was reserve with 49 (Goucher was next with 35). Held on the first of May this made it eight straight, which remains the TOC record for most consecutive TOC show wins without skipping an event. Then SCAD was actually beaten by Emory & College at the 2021 Pre-Season Tournament hosted by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on September 25, 2021. The Wasps outscored SCAD's Team Gold 38-34 (there was also a SCAD Team Black that day) to win the Pre-Season event. But SCAD started a new streak on December 4th of that year, winning 41-34 over Penn State's Team Blue (two PSU teams, one SCAD team) at another Otterbein-hosted event. SCAD hosted the Winter TOC in January of 2022 and their Team Black won by a closer-than-expected 45-41 margin over Skidmore College (one Skidmore team) considering the location. The Bees sat out the first 'Spring' TOC event in over a decade in March of '22 with one of host Findlay's two teams the champion. The September 2022 Pre-Season event was at Willowbrooke Farm in Plymouth, Michigan (University of Michigan hosting) and SCAD did not disappoint. The Bees defeated Goucher 33-27 in a low-scoring affair with only nine schools (ten teams thanks to the host's two squads) taking part. On December 3rd of '22 SCAD returned to Blacksburg, Virginia and won the event this time, scoring 47 points while Goucher was again reserve high point with 39. On January 29th of 2023 SCAD hosted the Winter TOC and had both the high point and reserve high point teams. SCAD's Team Yellow won with 50 points while Team Black scored 43 (Sacred Heart was third with 32). This makes it five in a row for SCAD when they are entered. Sacred Heart would win the '23 Spring TOC at Findlay which again SCAD did not enter. St. Mary of the Woods College hosted the 2023 Pre-Season, and SCAD won that one too. A new team was reserve high point as Purdue University scored 40 points via their Team Gold. But SCAD's one team scored 48 to make it six in a row. Then they won at Centenary and it was seven in a row. When posting a photo of Cram and St. Lawrence's Warren on the home page of Campus Equestrian on December 9th the text read that SCAD had now won 17 of the past 18 TOC events in which they had been entered. But if you go through this paragraph and count all the SCAD TOC wins that number is only 15 of 16! In other words you can't believe everything you read on the internet! If you go back to 2017 SCAD won both the Pre-Season Tournament by 12 points (location and runner-up unknown) and the Holiday Tournament at the University of Findlay 39-34 over Goucher prior to their one point loss to Mount Holyoke. So the Campus Equestrian photo caption on the home page should have read 17 of 19 wins in which the Bees had at least one team entered. For those who really must know Randolph College's "Wild" team defeated SCAD's "Black" team 32-28 in Bristol, Virginia on 1/28/17 a week after the University of Findlay was a 37-32 winner over Bridgewater College's Gold Team with SCAD's Gold Team third also with 32 points based on a tie-breaker in Weyer's Cave, Virginia. Thus the January 2017 Winter Tournament I and II shows mark the most recent time when two consecutive TOC events were held without SCAD earning high point team honors at either.

From left to right are Savannah College of Art & Design head coach Ashley Henry, Alexander Alston, Celia Cram, Morgan Fullam, Madison Poulin, Hattie Bradford, Taylor Fox, Ryan Kenny and Peter Cavagnac of the victorius 2023 Holiday Tourament of Champions SCAD Bees. Besides getting to keep the trophy that has graced their equestrian center for much of the time since mid-2017 Cavagnac is holding Crumbl Cookies, which TOC series co-founder Jim Arrigon's wife Gwen recommended for the High Point and Reserve High Point Teams. SCAD has won 17 of the past 19 TOC events in which they have participated in.

What's next?: The Winter Tournament of Champions in Hardeeville, South Carolina on January 27th will have the rare distinction of including at least one team from each of the IHSA's eight zones. Mount Holyoke, Sacred Heart and the University of Vermont will represent Zone 1, Skidmore will represent Zone 2, Penn State Zone 3, Hollins University Zone 4, SCAD and the University of South Carolina Zone 5, Miami of Ohio Zone 6, Purdue University Zone 7 and Stanford University Zone 8. As the host school SCAD will have two separate teams entered. The Spring Tournament of Champions will be hosted by the University of Findlay on Saturday, March 23rd. Like SCAD it appears Findlay is for now on repeat to host this event on regular basis since this will be the third year in a row at their James L. Child Equestrian Center in Findlay, Ohio.

---Steve Maxwell

Show Incidentals from the 2023 Holiday Tournament of Champions invitational, held at the Centenary University Equestrian Center in Long Valley, New Jersey on December 2nd, 2023: Overcast skies, with temperatures reaching the low '50's. Entire show held indoors. Start time: 9:03AM. Finish: Sometime just before 5:00PM. Judge: Creigh Duncan, Princeton, New Jersey. Stewards: Eddie Federwisch/Savannah College of Art & Design; Clare Knapp, Marist College and Ciara Menkens Tjong/Delaware Valley University. This show was Hunter Seat or English only.

Class-by-class results, in the order in which they were held:

Open equitation over fences - Section A: 1. Sophia Olivero, Skidmore College. 2. Caroline Mancini, Centenary University - Gold Team. 3. Sophia Gianoulis, St. Lawrence University - Brown Team. 4. Emmalyn Mirarchi, Mount Holyoke College. 5. Evan Holt, Delaware Valley University. 6. Brynley Smith, University of Lynchburg.

Open equitation over fences - Section B: 1. Benjamin Hoban, Centenary University - Blue Team. 2. Celia Cram, Savannah College of Art & Design. 3. Christina Titto, Marist College. 4. Janet Hedges, Boston University. 5. Phoebe Martin, Albion College. 6. Cara McFadden, Penn State University (State College).

Intermediate equitation over fences - Section A: 1. Hudson Warren, St. Lawrence University - Brown Team. 2. Reagan Waggoner, Sacred Heart University. 3. Morgan Fullam, Savannah College of Art & Design. 4. Isabella Catto, Penn State University (State College). 5. Kayley Besbris, Centenary University - Blue Team. 6. Anna Wilson, Miami University of Ohio.

Intermediate equitation over fences - Section B: 1. Hayley Anderson, Goucher College. 2. Lainey Rockacy, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team. 3. Cate Bates, Mount Holyoke College. 4. Alexandria Russell, University of Lynchburg. 5. Amelia Gugino, Centenary University - Gold Team. 6. Ana Lattanzio, Marist College.

Open equitation on the flat - Section A: 1. Alexander Alston, Savannah College of Art & Design. 2. Hudson Warren, St. Lawrence University. 3. Lauren Marchetti, Penn State University (State College). 4. Sofie Olson, Miami University of Ohio. 5. Phoebe Martin, Albion College. 6. Ella Czarnecki, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Intermediate equitation on the flat - Section A: 1. Ryan Kenny, Savannah College of Art & Design. 2. Cate Bates, Mount Holyoke College. 3. Meghan Fitzpatrick, Centenary University - Blue Team. 4. Isa Jensen, Skidmore College. 5. Sophia Gianoulis, St. Lawrence University - Brown Team. 6. Brooke Wolfinger, Delaware Valley University.

Open equitation on the flat - Section B: 1. Harper Sanford, Skidmore College. 2. Helena Weiss, Mount Holyoke College. 3. Carina Muratore, Sacred Heart University. 4. Margaret Stell, University of Lynchburg. 5. Janet Hedges, Boston University. 6. Harper Eskey, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team.

Intermediate equitation on the flat - Section B: 1. Aislinn Bermingham, Centenary University - Gold Team. 2. Karina Duenwald, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 3. Francesca Mazotta, Boston University. 4. Sophia Wirtz, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team. 5. Jacob Connell, Goucher College. 6. Alexandria Russell, University of Lynchburg.

They just missed having the top two Medal Class winners. St. Lawrence University sophomore Cate Weis (on left) was the Low Medal Champion while senior Hudson Warren (on right) was the runner-up behind Cram in the High Medal. St. Lawrence also had two teams entered in the competition, with Warren winning his intermediate fences to help the Saint's Brown Team place sixth overall.

Limit equitation over fences - Section A: 1. Taylor Ernst, Centenary University - Gold Team. 2. Ava Jackson, University of Lynchburg. 3. Hattie Bradford, Savannah College of Art & Design. 4. Scarlett Haas, St. Lawrence University - Brown Team. 5. Cadence Schneider, Marist College. 6. Carly Bitler, Mount Holyoke College.

Limit equitation over fences - Section B: 1. Cate Weis, St. Lawrence University. 2. Molly Sowa, Centenary University - Blue Team. 3. Taylor Pruitt, Delaware Valley University. 4. Maya Corbin, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 5. Jacqueline Chalifoux, University of Pittsburgh. 6. Katie Woemer, Albion College.

Novice equitation on the flat - Section A: 1. Madison Poulin, Savannah College of Art & Design. 2. Ava Flannery, Sacred Heart University. 3. Laura Puente, Centenary University - Blue Team. 4. Stella Allen, Skidmore College. 5. Sophia Korovin, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team. 6. Raven Coffer, Boston University.

Limit equitation on the flat - Section A: 1. Hallie Phillips, Mount Holyoke College. 2. Kayley Besbris, Centenary University - Blue Team. 3. Anabella Eriksen - Brottet, Miami University of Ohio. 4. Charlotte Lyon, Skidmore College. 5. Julia Reid, Marist College. 6. Lainey Rockacy, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team.

Introductory equitation on the flat - Section A: 1. Kelly Mecatl, Sacred Heart University. 2. Emma Jenison, Skidmore College. 3. Jingwen Ma, St. Lawrence University - Scarlet Team. 4. Alyssa McLaughlin - Price, Centenary University - Blue Team. 5. Taylor Fox, Savannah College of Art & Design. 6. Vir Kothari, Boston University.

Introductory equitation on the flat - Section B: 1. Catherine Kazel, Mount Holyoke College. 2. Emily King, Centenary University - Gold Team. 3. Elena DeDominicus, Marist College. 4. Jaron Belmore, St. Lawrence University - Brown Team. 5. Lily L'Oiseau, Goucher College. 6. Mel Aggelikas, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Limit equitation on the flat - Section B: 1. Hattie Bradford, Savannah College of Art & Design. 2. Peyton Olson, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 3. Cordelia Edwards, Goucher College. 4. Lauren Kimball, Centenary University - Gold Team. 5. Isabella Schupler, Sacred Heart University. 6. Grace Allen, Delaware Valley University.

Novice equitation on the flat - Section B: 1. Kristen Wilhelm, Goucher College. 2. Anno Kostava, Mount Holyoke College. 3. Victoria Riordan, University of Lynchburg. 4. John Notaro, University of Pittsburgh. 5. Rhiannon Swimelar, Delaware Valley University. 6. Makaela Radochia, St. Lawrence University - Brown team.

Low Medal Division: 1. Cate Weis, St. Lawrence University. 2. Aislinn Bermingham, Centenary University. 3. Molly Sowa, Centenary University. 4. Elle Nutting, University of Lynchburg. 5. Ava Hufford, Sacred Heart University. 6. Lauren Trexler, St. Lawrence University. 7. Ani McIntyre, Skidmore College. 8. Katie Woerner, Albion College.

High Medal Division: 1. Celia Cram, Savannah College of Art & Design. 2. Hudson Warren, St. Lawrence University. 3. Benjamin Hoban, Centenary University. 4. Kenya Sanders, Skidmore College. 5. Evan Holt, Delaware Valley University. 6. Caroline Mancini, Centenary University. 7. Phoebe Martin, Albion College. 8. Sarah Toll, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

2023 Holiday Tournament of Champions Team Totals:

Savannah College of Art & Design - 44 Points (High Point Team)

Mount Holyoke College - 37 Points (Reserve High Point Team)

Centenary University - Gold Team - 30 Points (Third Place)

Centenary University - Blue Team - 29 Points (Fourth Place)

Skidmore College - 28 (Fifth Place)

St. Lawrence University - Brown Team - 25 (Sixth Place)

Sacred Heart University - 23 (Seventh Place - Won Tiebreaker)

St. Lawrence University - Red or Scarlet Team - 23 (Eighth Place)

Goucher College - 22

University of Lynchburg - 17

University of Massachusetts at Amherst - 15

Marist College - 13

Boston University - 11

Delaware Valley University - 10

Miami University of Ohio - 8

Penn State University (State College) - 8

Albion College - 5

University of Pittsburgh - 5

(For more info about the Tournament of Champions series please e-mail or visit the Equestrian Talent Search page on Facebook)


© 2002 - 2023 Campus Equestrian