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Equestrian Rides for Big 12 Title
March 28, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
The No. 4 seeded K-State equestrian team is set to take on the reigning Big 12 Equestrian Champions, No. 1 seeded Oklahoma State, in today's semifinal matchup of the Big 12 Championship.
Taking place at the Willis Family Equestrian Center in Waco, Texas, it is a competition that is sure to be full of excitement and intensity as the Wildcats and the Cowgirls are both 3-3 in Big 12 meets this year and 1-1 against each other.
Oklahoma State will bring a rich history to the table as the team has won three Big 12 Championships in the past five years (2009, 2012 and 2013). The Cowgirls' win last year was an 8-6 decision over K-State in the event's final round.
Coming so close to victory last season yet tasting defeat and placing second in the Big 12 left a bitter taste in the Wildcats' mouth, and that is added motivation to defeat the Cowgirls this morning.
"It's safe to expect OSU to come out really strong and trying for a three-peat," K-State head coach Casie Maxwell said. "They've had a great year and have a deep roster, but we're well prepared and just need to stick to our plan."
For K-State, sticking to "their plan" means staying consistent and competing like they have all season long. Coming off of one of the best seasons in the program's history, K-State is 9-4 with losses to only top-10 ranked opponents.
While in the fall K-State took down Oklahoma State, 11-9, at home at Timbercreek Stables, the last time the two teams met was on Feb. 15, in Stillwater, Okla., where the Wildcats fell, 13-6, to the Cowgirls.
"My thoughts on our matchup against Oklahoma State are the same as any of our other competitions," said senior western rider Kelly Bovaird. "As long as we do what we have been doing all semester and ride smart and aggressively, Oklahoma State will be an easy task."
Though the added intensity of winning a conference title comes with this weekend's tournament, Maxwell said her team will go into the meet looking to take it one event at a time.
"We try really hard to keep the mindset that it's just another meet and not the Big 12 Championship," explained Maxwell. "We're 1-1 with OSU this year, so we know they're beatable, but it will take our entire roster being on their 'A' game to get that done."
The Big 12 Championship is unlike any other event the Wildcats compete in during the season and is among Maxwell's favorite times of the year.
"I like taking horses to the event and having all four Big 12 teams in one venue riding their hearts out," said Maxwell. "There's so much depth in our conference that the competition is fierce and exciting and really gets your adrenaline going."
Having been there before, senior hunter seat Rachel Webster said on the Big 12 Championship, "My favorite part about the weekend is having the opportunity to spend time with all of my teammates. The support and cohesiveness of this team is unlike any other I know. I feel special to be a part of it. The Big 12 Championship is always an exciting competition because the stage is a bit higher and the environment in and around the arena is very energetic."
A win over Oklahoma State today would surge the Wildcats into tomorrow's championship meet against the winner of today's matchup between No. 2 seed Baylor and No. 3 seed TCU.
The Wildcats enter this weekend's competition off of back-to-back wins over both Baylor and TCU. The team went undefeated on its home soil for the first time in program history and there's no doubt this year's senior class hopes to close its season on a successful note.
"Going into the Big 12 Championship, our team is incredibly confident and has a lot of energy," said Bovaird. "We are definitely ready to ride aggressively and come home with some wins. It is crazy how fast time has flown from even the beginning of this season, but emotions aren't any different than normal just because we are seniors. It's definitely bittersweet, but we are completely focused on winning the championship."
Prepared, focused and excited to compete, come 10 a.m., this morning, K-State will be ready to take on the Big 12 - one of the nation's toughest conferences.
In the program's 14-year history, K-State has never won a Big 12 title, so a win this weekend would mark a program first that Maxwell would love to accomplish with this year's team.
"I think it would mean the world to our seniors to clinch a Big 12 Championship," Maxwell said. "However, we emphasize to our athletes the importance of not putting more pressure on themselves in the postseason. If they do what they've been doing all season, then we'll do just fine. It's just another meet and they need to take it one day at a time."
Photo above right: K-State's Kelly Bovaird competes in Horsemanship against Georgia at Timbercreek Stables in Manhattan, Kansas on November 22, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)