May 12, 2013
This feature was published in the K-State Sports Extra on May 12.
By Mark Janssen
Chat with head coach Casie Maxwell and you’ll quickly hear her say that Kansas State’s equestrian program has become a “player” on the national scene.
The Wildcat coach says, “Not that long ago we’d go to a competition and say, ‘Oh gosh, we have to play them.’ But we have now become one of those teams that other teams do not want to play.”
K-State recently completed a season where it placed Reserve National Champion for the third time in the last four years with the others coming in 2010 and 2011. The loss for the 2013 title came against No. 1 seeded Oklahoma State
Three second-place finishes in a four-year period is pretty spiffy, but as Maxwell says, “That’s good, but now it’s time to be first. It really is pretty awesome to be Reserve National Champion, but we’re chomping at the bit to get over the hump.”
In March, K-State was second at the Big 12 Championships this year losing to Oklahoma State, 8-6, in a competition that Maxwell said, “They left it all in the arena. We could not ask for anything more.”
Both the Western Team and the Hunter Seat squad lost 4-3 decisions to Oklahoma State in a competition that saw Rachel Webster and Meredith Finch recognized as All-Big 12 performers.
Maxwell saluted new assistant coach Anna Schierholz for upgrading the Hunt Seat program that has brought the best balance between the two disciplines in the program’s history.
“We have more depth and we have a lot of upper classmen,” said Maxwell. “It’s all a part of a growing program. It takes a while to get over the hump.”
It was a year ago that K-State’s Hunt Seat team placed sixth in the nation with Meredith Finch winning the Most Outstanding Player in Equitation on the Flat with an undefeated record at the NCEA National Championships.
Showing K-State’s balance this year is the fact that it had team-wide honorees in Rachel Webster earning Big 12 Rider of the Month honors in Equitation Over Fences, Hannah Ribera in Horsemanship, Finch in Flat Rider, and Kali Yates in Over Fences.
Among those, Finch, Ribera, Rachel Webster and Yates were later named as NCEA All-Americans.
“It’s extremely hard to earn All-American status and they did so among a very elite group of athletes,” said Maxwell, who also has 17 academic honorees from the NCEA.
In looking to the future, Maxwell said she was “excited” about the 15-person recruiting class that primarily will be coming from the Chicago area, Texas and Oklahoma.
“The Chicago area started with one or two, and now they have told their friends and it’s become a nice recruiting base. It’s our strongest area outside of the surrounding states,” said Maxwell. “It’s interesting on what helps a program grow, but the American Airlines flights Manhattan offers to Chicago have really been a huge selling point for our program.”