The Daily Gamecock

Equestrian to begin nationals today

	<p>Senior Kimberly McCormack (above) and the equestrian team will compete at nationals after winning the <span class="caps">SEC</span> Championship.</p>
Senior Kimberly McCormack (above) and the equestrian team will compete at nationals after winning the SEC Championship.

Gamecocks hope to build on momentum from win at inaugural SEC Championship

After winning the Southern Championship last season, the South Carolina equestrian team headed into nationals with momentum on its side. However, the Gamecocks faltered in Waco, Texas, with the Western team claiming fourth place and the Hunt Seat team taking fifth.

This season a similar situation awaits USC. Coach Boo Major and company hope to achieve a different result from last season, and the past couple weeks of practice have been pleasing to the long-time USC coach.

“I think we have a much better frame of mind,” said Major, who was recently named the SEC Coach of the Year. “I think we have a stronger team. I think we had a great team last year, but I think riding-wise we have a stronger team and, I’m hoping, mentally we have a stronger team.”

USC will get the competition started with a Western match against New Mexico State at 10 a.m. today. If the Gamecocks win, they will take on Texas Christian University at 2 p.m.

The Hunt Seat team will begin play Friday against either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M at 10 a.m.

During the regular season, the team practices three times a week. However, since the SEC Championship ended, the riders participating in nationals have practiced every day. That adds up to 15 straight days of practice before the Gamecocks got a day of rest for travel Tuesday.

Major said the girls got a little tired by the end of last week, but that the team needs every minute of practice it can get because several meets take place in such a short amount of time. She compared nationals to NCAA March Madness, in that any team can win, depending on who comes together at the right time.

Senior Kimberly McCormack says the consecutive days of practice are tough, but she knows it is all in preparation to hopefully bring home a national championship.

“You kind of know what is coming, so you prepare yourself for it,” McCormack said. “You put a lot of effort in that two weeks knowing you’re headed to Waco. It’s a pretty short period of time, so it’s intense.”

McCormack agreed the team appears to be in better shape than it was last year, saying there is more energy and a stronger “cohesive feel” heading into the first-round match.

Major said because the team is so close-knit, riders want to cheer on their teammates even when they aren’t competing. However, the competition area at Waco is spread out. The Hunt Seat ring is on one side of the facility while the Western ring is on the other.

USC’s stalls are somewhere in the middle, according to Major. She said she is going to try and prevent her team from “overdoing” it and getting too tired from cheering on their teammates.

Redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth said the separation between the two teams is one of the toughest things about nationals.

“One of our best qualities as a team is that we work really well together, and we try to pump each other up,” Letchworth said. “The [other team] gives us a lot of energy, and we give them a lot of energy, so I think that’s going to be one of the most difficult things.”

Regardless, Major said she thinks her team is in a good position going into nationals and, returning to her March Madness reference, says she hopes her team isn’t upset early on.

“We’re going to try very hard not to be a team that falters in the beginning,” Major said. “I think that’s our goal this time: to just come out of the box strong. I think if we do that, we’re going to be fine.”


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