The Daily Gamecock

Equestrian wins SEC championship

	<p>Senior Kimberly McCormack said the <span class="caps">USC</span> equestrian team has done a good job of adjusting after struggling early in the season.</p>
Senior Kimberly McCormack said the USC equestrian team has done a good job of adjusting after struggling early in the season.

Squad ranked No. 1 in nation after defeating Georgia, Auburn

Last season the Gamecocks won the final Southern Equestrian Championships. But changing conferences did not change South Carolina’s success.

In 2012 the SEC recognized equestrian as an official sport. With victories over then–No. 1 Georgia Friday and No. 2 Auburn Saturday, USC captured the inaugural SEC championship.

The championship was the 11th league title recorded in school history and earned South Carolina a No. 1 national ranking.

“We’ll always be known as the first team that won the equestrian SEC championship and the first team to bring home a SEC championship in Coach (Ray) Tanner’s era (as Athletics director),” head coach Boo Major said. “That’s very special; it’s a great feeling certainly. We’re proud to have represented USC in such a positive way.”

The Gamecocks also upset both Auburn and Georgia last year en route to the Southern championship. Senior hunt seat rider Kimberly McCormack says the team does a good job of adjusting from struggles earlier in the season.

USC has suffered slumps in both of its championship seasons. Last year the Gamecocks lost five games in a row before winning the final four games of the regular season. This season, after starting 4-0 and gaining the No. 1 ranking, USC lost six of its past eight games to stumble into the SEC championship.

“This team has been really good about when things aren’t quite going our way, we really look at ourselves and say, ‘What do we need to change?’” McCormack said. “So I think it just came at that right time, and we got back on our feet right in time for a big show like (the SEC championship).”

The Gamecocks jumped out to quick leads in both of last weekend’s matches. After losing the first point in equitation over fences, USC won the next four rides to take a commanding 4-1 lead.

McCormack, who was, along with Katherine Schmidt, named to the SEC All-Championship team, was responsible for one of those four early points and said the quick start was important for the team to get the eventual 10-7 win.

“I think it gave the whole team a sense of confidence,” McCormack said. “We had a little wiggle room — not much, but a little. Starting out with that much of a bang really sets the tone for the rest of the weekend.”

Major said Georgia is a good team but that her group “really handed it to them.” Before the SEC championships, the Columbia native said her team had struggled with consistency during the season, and if they could put it all together, they would be tough to beat.

USC carried the momentum and consistency into Saturday’s match against Auburn, where it again jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. And just like Friday, the Gamecocks maintained that lead and eventually defeat the Tigers 10-8.

Major said her team needed that early lead as Auburn was “really expecting to win that thing” since the match took place on their own turf.

“It was theirs for us to take away,” Major said. “I think that was kind of their mindset. But I think when we host it next year, we’re going to have that same attitude.”

For now, USC will enjoy the SEC championship trophy while preparing for the nationals that begin in two weeks.

“I’d lie to you if I didn’t say it was a lot of fun,” Major said. “It was something that this team deserved. This team is a special team, and if they are firing on all cylinders, they can beat anybody.”