SMWC Western Team is Region's Best
April 15th, 2014 | Jovan Jeftich
The cliché “hard work pays off” rang true this season for the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) western team. On March 7, 2014, the team was crowned IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) regional champions for Region 7, Zone 1. For the third consecutive year, the SMWC western team led the region for the entire season against some of the state’s big name schools such as Ball State University, Indiana University and Purdue University.
The team finished ahead of its competition by an impressive 68 points by the conclusion of the season. The team was undefeated in the fall semester and won all but two shows in the spring semester.
The significance of this success is that SMWC is a much smaller institution compared to its competition and does not boast as big a pool of riders as many of the schools it faces during a given season. “We make champions out of limited resources,” said SMWC head western coach Sara Schulz.
By winning the team regional title, SMWC automatically qualified to compete at the semi-final show in North Carolina, which took place March 29-30, 2014. SMWC finished in sixth out of eighth place as a team. Only the top three teams qualify for nationals. Yet, SMWC will send three individual riders to nationals.
“I truly feel the unity and winning attitudes of every team member made us successful,” said Schulz. The young ladies have sportsmanship, dedication and drive to be number one. These are very special women. They have been a joy to coach and watch bloom into good, solid thinking riders.”
Schulz also notes that the sport of equestrian has similar qualities as many other college athletic programs. “It teaches leadership, responsibility, dedication and hard work,” said Schulz.
The SMWC western team produced three of the region’s top open riders this season. Seniors Ali Mahloch, Karen Cannon, and Erika Stanley finished in the top three, a feat that rarely happens for one school. This is the first time in SMWC western history that three of the top open riders of the region came from the same team.
“It is such an honor to be top three in the region with two of my best friends at SMWC”, said Karen Cannon. “It's really bittersweet that we were able to do this senior year but we will leave with the satisfaction of being the best open riders in our region!”
Erika Stanley also had similar thoughts as to being named a top three open rider in the region. “This was a dream for us at the beginning of the year,” said Stanley. “It is really an honor to be able to say that SMWC brought home top three out of twelve open riders.”
Ali Mahloch came out on top winning the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) Cup as the high point rider of the region. The accomplishment has not happened at SMWC in quite some time and is Mahloch’s favorite moment of this season so far. “Because of this win, I will go straight to nationals and compete at reining and the rail with 23 other regional champions," said Mahloch. “What an honor! Instead of walking at graduation, I will be sliding down centerline in Pennsylvania!” Since Mahloch was the top open rider of the region, she automatically qualifies for nationals, which takes place May 1-4, in Harrisburg, Penn.
“Being an SMWC equestrian has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears but it has been worth it,” said Mahloch. “The amazing show weekends make up for the bad ones and my fellow team members are so supportive and inspirational. It's hard to not love them all. Deciding to be on the team was by far the best decision I made when I came to The Woods.”
SMWC was represented with riders who qualified as individuals at the semi-final show. Those riders were: Ali Mahloch (Open Reining), Sarah New (Advanced), Meghan Greve (Novice), Erin Hermes (Intermediate), and Vivian Hansen (Walk/Trot). Ali Mahloch finished in first place in Open Reining and Sarah New came in second in Advanced Horsemanship. Both Ali and Sarah qualified for nationals along with Jacqui Peterschmidt who will be competing for the Teresa MacDonald Scholarship.
This season has been a very memorable one for all those on the SMWC western team. Schulz is proud of the accomplishments of every rider and all the hard work they have put into the program. Some of her favorite moments this year include being regional champions for the third straight year, the relationships that develop within the team, and the smile and pride on her riders' faces after they have succeeded in their class.
Stanley believes her teammates and her coach are the biggest factors as to the success of this season. “I feel that the reason we have been so successful is because each team member has put their heart into taking our team to the top and most importantly our coach truly believes in us and is doing everything she can to prepare us to get to nationals,” said Stanley. “She has us working out and doing things that most would never think of on the horse’s back. Her great ideas and positive attitude really drive us to keep pushing forward.”