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BIG 12 NEXT FOR K-STATE RIDERS

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - So what sport do you think within the Big 12 family dominates the nation more so than any other?

Football? Women's basketball? Men's and/or women's track and field?

Nope, nope and nope.

Kansas State heads to the Big 12 championship in equestrian Friday and Saturday at Texas A&M where the Aggies (10-1) rank No. 1 in the nation. The Big 12's other three teams all rank in the Top 10 with No. 4 Oklahoma State (7-5), No. 5 Baylor (9-6) and No. 7 Kansas State (5-8) all ranked out of the 23 schools across the country that include the riding sport within their athletic family.

"The Big 12 is extremely tough," said K-State coach Casie Lisabeth. "There are some SEC schools that may move up in the rankings because they had their conference meet last week, but the Big 12 is loaded every year."

Of her own Wildcat team, Lisabeth says, "This has been a team that has 24 freshmen (out of 51 riders), that has just been progressing throughout the season. We didn't want to weaken our schedule, so we've just thrown these freshmen into the mix and they've been learning going against the best.  They've had some good moments, but also some learning ones going into this meet. The goal has been to stay consistent with our rides."

With freshmen in equestrian, Lisabeth says there's an adjustment just as there is in any other sport for an 18-year-old making the move into the world of Big 12 athletics.

"They're all playing the same kids they played in high school, but now at different colleges across the country. They're used to the competition part of it, but some of them have a tough time with the 6 a.m. strength and conditioning workouts three days a week, and just the overall time commitment on top of their 15 hours of classes each semester."

While riders are used to dual meet competition, the Big 12 will require separate rides on each day. K-State will go against A&M on Friday, while on Saturday the individual winners/losers will face the winners/losers of Friday's OSU vs. Baylor competition.

"Part of choosing the team to compete this weekend will deal with how they can handle the mental part of two very hard Big 12 competitions back-to-back," said Lisabeth. "You have to be mentally strong for those high-pressure situations."

Lisabeth predicted that both her English and Western teams will be ranked among the Top 10 in the nation at the end of the weekend, which means both will attend Nationals in Waco, Texas, in two weeks. Last year the Wildcat Western team was the Reserve National Champion.

"We peak for Nationals, so the Big 12 this weekend will be a good stepping stone to get us ready for Nationals," said Lisabeth.

TOP 'CATS: On the Western side, Lisabeth points to freshman Kelly Bovaird of Tulsa, Okla., as K-State's top rider with a 7-3 record and three meet MVPs.

In English riding, Stephanie Patterson, a junior from Calgary, Canada, has served as team captain and as a "key player and most consistent player," according to Lisabeth.

K-STATE'S LINEUP:
Equitation over Fences: Cat Avolese, Shana Barnett, Sarah Mershon, Kali Yates
Equitation on the Flat: Meredith Finch, Larissa Laffey, Stephanie Patterson, Rachel Webster
Reining: Jordan Cox, Sam Etsell, Emily Stockford (Friday), Alayna Warner (Saturday), Alecia Zimbelman
Horsemanship: Kelly Bovaird, Chayna DeNicolo, Hannah Ribera, Rachel Wetherell

IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW:
Only seven riders out of K-State's roster of 51 come from the state of Kansas. The majority of the Western riders come from the Midwest, while most of the English riders come from as far away as New York and California.

"We look for riders who have national experience and who have experience on a variety of horses," said Lisabeth. "If someone comes in with experience just on their horse, or one horse, they're going to have trouble at our level where you're competing on a different horse in each competition. You need to have a solid foundation."

In equestrian, each school hosting a competition provides all the horses. K-State owns 40 horses which come on a donation basis from trainers around the country. Lisabeth says that the program has room for five to seven more horses. The NCAA allows 15 scholarships that K-State divides evenly between English and Western.


We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.