K-State Travels to Waco for Nationals

MANHATTAN, Kan. –  The seventh-ranked Kansas State equestrian team will travel to Waco, Texas, beginning Thursday to close out the 2009-10 season at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships.

"This National Championship is going to be a lot of fun for our team," said head coach Casie Lisabeth. "Our last few weeks of practice have been focused on the fine tuning and consistency in each pattern and I feel like they are prepared to take on any opponent next week."

K-State (5-9) will enter the competition as the No. 6 seed in the Western bracket, while the Hunter Seat squad is taking the 10th seed in its bracket. The Western squad will ride against 11th seeded Delaware State Thursday in a re-match of the Nov. 20 showdown at Tennessee-Martin, a competition that the Wildcats won by a 6-2 margin.

The Wildcats will be led in the Horsemanship discipline by four seniors who will be riding in their last competition wearing the purple and white. Team captains Alyssa Freeman and Laura Brown have combined for 15 wins and three MVP awards on their senior campaigns. K-State will also look to the experience of Mikaela Sundgren, who has accumulated a 9-4-1 record on the season along with three MVP awards, and Courtney Watters who has racked up six wins along with one MVP award on the year.

In Reining, K-State will look towards senior Tara Hallan, who has picked up a team-high 11 wins on the year as well as three MVP awards, to lead the squad to victory. She will be joined in the arena by the senior tandem of Morgan Campbell and Kaylee Stout which has combined for 14 wins and four MVPs on the season. Rounding out the lineup for the Wildcats will be junior Alecia Zimbleman, who has amassed 24 wins throughout her career.

"There are a lot of seniors who will be in the arena for the last time in their collegiate career and that definitely makes this competition special," said Lisabeth. "I expect the girls to look at it as just another competition and nothing more; they need to keep their heads clear and focused and not put any added pressure on themselves."

The Hunter Seat squad is also facing a re-match from the same Nov. 20 show, taking on seventh-seeded UT-Martin for the second time this season after falling in the first meeting on tiebreakers.

"The girls need to bear down and keep the pressure on their opponents," said associate head coach Gardner Powell. "We've gotten better consistency from the jump squad in the last few shows and need to carry it through to Nationals. The Flat riders are riding really well, and I expect then to ride smart. Our spring schedule has us well-prepared for multi-day pressure. We just need to stay focused and keep advancing through the tournament."

In Equitation on the Flat, the Wildcats will look towards senior Katie Mellon for leadership as she enters the competition with a 3-3 record on the year in the discipline. Junior Natasha Vincent has notched four wins this season competing at the varsity level. The lineup will be rounded out by a pair of freshmen in Larissa Laffey and Stephanie Patterson who have combined for five wins and one MVP on their freshmen campaign.

The Equitation over Fences squad will feature two seniors and two freshman who will hope to make a deep run in the tournament. Seniors Kendall Marvin and Bridget Doyle, who have combined for eight wins on the season, will ride in their last competitions as Wildcats. Freshmen Kristen Rheinlander and Kali Yates, on the other had, have just begun their promising careers as Wildcats, combining for five wins on the season.

Two of the Wildcat riders, Hallan and Sundgren, have also qualified to ride for national championships as individuals. Hallan will enter the competition as the sixth seed in the Reining bracket, where she will ride against New Mexico State's Rebecca McReynolds, the No. 3 seed, in the opening round. Sundgren, the seventh seed in the horsemanship bracket, will be competing against second-seeded Carey Nowacek of Texas A&M in her opening round of competition.

Competition will get underway Thursday at the Heart O' Texas Fair Complex, with the National Champion being crowned on the 17th. Results will be posted as they become available.

While the Varsity is competing in Waco, senior Trish Carney will be traveling to DeKalb, Illinois to compete in the IHSA Hunter Seat Regionals this Saturday, April 10. If Carney is able to place in the top two on Saturday, she will move on to Sunday's Zones, where a top four finish will punch a ticket to Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, May 6-8.