No. 7 K-State Travels to Big 12 Championships

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The seventh-ranked Kansas State equestrian squad will travel to Waco, Texas, for the Big 12 Championships this Friday and Saturday.


K-State (5-7) will begin its quest for a conference championship by taking on No. 3 Texas A&M (10-4) in the first matchup of a four-team bracket style competition on Friday morning at 10 a.m. The winner of that contest will take on the winner of the Friday matchup of No. 4 Oklahoma State (6-5) and No. 6 Baylor (7-8) on Saturday to determine the overall champion. The losing teams in both of Friday’s contests will also ride Saturday to determine third and fourth place in the conference.


The Wildcats are 0-2 on the year against the Aggies with the first matchup in Manhattan on Nov. 6 coming down to a 9-9 decision that was eventually given to A&M on tiebreakers.


In Equitation over Fences, K-State will look for strong performances from a pair of seniors in Bridget Doyle and Katie Mellon, who have combined for nine wins on the season. They will be joined in the arena by freshman Kristen Rheinlander, who was the only Fences rider to take a point in last weekend’s matchup with No. 2 Auburn. The lineup will be rounded out on Friday with senior Kendall Marvin, while the fourth spot will be taken by freshman Kali Yates for Saturday’s competition.


K-State will wrap up the Hunter Seat portion of the competition in Equitation on the Flat, where it will rely on youth to try and bring home the title. Freshman Larissa Laffey is coming off of a weekend performance against Fresno State that saw her pick up the first MVP award of her young career. Sophomore Staphanie Patterson and Junior Natasha Vincent have combined for five wins on the year and will both look to have strong performances in Waco. Freshman Kali Yates will take the fourth roster spot on Friday, with Mellon replacing her in the rotation for Saturday’s contest.


“The Big 12 Championship is a great post-season competition that allows all the riders a chance to get in the show pen one more time before Nationals,” said Hunter Seat captain Jen Rawle. “It’s also a really fun show as we are competing against so many great girls from the best conference in the country. As a Hunter Seat squad, we have been working really hard and I feel that we are riding better than we have all year. We are ready to put our talent to work this weekend.”


In the Western portion of the show, the Wildcats will look for another stellar performance from their Horsemanship squad which has been solid all season. Senior team captains Laura Browne and Alyssa Freeman have combined for 13 wins on the year and three MVP awards. Fellow seniors Mikaela Sundgren and Courtney Watters have been equally as impressive, notching 14 victories as well as three MVP awards of their own.


“Our team has the ability to step into the arena and beat the top seed,” said Freeman. “By spending most of our spring schedule on the road we have developed a rhythm for prepping and showing unfamiliar horses, which has put us in a good position for this weekend. The western squad has seen spectacular rides from several different riders this spring. The breadth of quality performances is promising as we go against a talented Texas A&M team. We are ready to post eight strong rides each round.”


The Reining squad has also been a bright spot for the Wildcats this season, especially in the spring. Senior Tara Hallan has been a big part of that success, tallying a 10-2 record along with three MVP awards, including a perfect 6-0 record in the spring season. Fellow senior Morgan Campbell has also been the recipient of three MVP awards on the year, while senior Kaylee Stout has accumulated a 7-4-1 record. Junior Alecia Zimbelman rounds out the lineup for the Wildcats, bringing 24 career wins into the arena.


Competition will get underway at the Willis Family Equestrian Center at 10 a.m. on Friday, with Saturday’s start time being determined by Friday’s results. Scores will be posted on as they become available.


While the varsity squad is competing for a conference title in Waco, senior Nicole Keenan will be traveling to Larinburg, N.C., this weekend to compete in the IHSA Western Semi-Finals. Keenan will hope to finish in the top four at the semi-finals in order to advance to IHSA Western Nationals held in Lexington, Ken., May 6-9.