September 16, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
With its season just around the corner, the No. 5 K-State equestrian team has one common goal for its opening competitions - start the season stronger than ever before.
And with its successful class of seniors and promising group of incoming freshmen, that goal is not far from reach.
"Between the freshmen and the returners combined, I think everybody is starting on a stronger note than they have in the past two years," head coach Casie Maxwell said. "We're looking forward to building our momentum earlier in the season than we have historically been able to do, and that's really exciting."
On Friday, K-State will open its 2013 campaign with a trip east to take on No. 1 South Carolina followed by a competition at Delaware State on Saturday.
Last March the Gamecocks traveled to Manhattan and K-State won the meeting, 14-6. Last season's win over South Carolina was led by now-seniors hunt seat Rachel Webster and western rider Kelly Bovaird, who were both voted to lead their teammates as captains this season and look forward to competing in arenas they have never seen before.
"I've never been to South Carolina, so I'm excited," Bovaird, who finished the 2012-13 season with an 11-5-2 record in Horsemanship, said. "Normally we like to travel and go away to other people's horses because we don't second-guess ourselves because we know nothing about those horses. I think it'll be a great season opener and the coaches will have us all prepared."
No riders on the 2013-14 roster have traveled to Columbia, S.C., before with K-State Equestrian as the last time K-State competed at the Gamecocks' One Wood Farm was in September of 2008, and K-State lost the meet, 13-4.
"It's going to be exciting to see their horses," Webster said, "and to be able to experience a new arena and see what an SEC team can bring to us."
Joining Bovaird and Webster as 2013-14 season captains are junior Hunt seat Madison Wayda and senior Western rider Jordan Cox.
The captains' goal this season, along with starting off strong, is to bring home a National Championship.
"Our biggest goal is to win Nationals and to win Big 12's. We were really close last year and I think we definitely have the capability of doing it this year," Wayda said.
Last season, K-State Equestrian's Western team took home second place in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association championship matches, losing to No. 1 Oklahoma State in the final round, while the team's Hunt Seat placed eighth overall. Coming so close to a National Championship win left a bitter taste in the mouth of the team, so this season they said they aren't holding anything back.
"My personal goal is to do everything in my capability to stay undefeated, and I think all of our personal goals should be that way," Cox added. "If we stay undefeated all the way though Nationals, everything else will fall into place."
Cox, from Trenton, N.C., is coming off of a 2013 season with an 8-9-1 record and was named First Team Academic All-Big 12. Wayda, from Newbury Park, Calif., finished last season with a 15-14 record and picked up six MOP honors, while Webster, from Mechanicsville, Va., finished 2012-13 going 23-11 with seven MOP honors, was the October 2012 Big 12 Rider of the Month and was an All-Big 12 selection.
With the individual accolades of the four, Maxwell is excited to see how her captains fare this season.
"This is a very successful group of captains," Maxwell said. "All four of them collectively, but they're also a very energetic. They love the sport and they love K-State. The energy around them is awesome, and they really help motivate and push the entire team."
K-State Equestrian has 21 seniors on this season's roster who have seen nothing but growth over their past three years with the team, and after a solid 2012-13 campaign, they are ready to make 2013-14 their best year yet.
"For them, this is their last time around and they're looking to bring home a National Championship instead of a Reserve National Championship," Maxwell said about her seniors. "So we're going to be pushing hard from the very beginning like we never have before."