Equestrian Team Season Heading to Strong Finish

Junior Melissa Dancer placed 3rd in open fences section B. Photo courtesy of William Marlow.
Junior Melissa Dancer placed 3rd in open fences section B. Photo courtesy of William Marlow.

By Jack Sullivan

Staff Reporter

On Feb. 19, the Sacred Heart University equestrian team finished their regular season for Western competition finishing as Zone 1 Regional Championship for the third year in a row.

The Hunt Seat team will be competing in their last regular season show on March 4, currently leading the region by 30 points. They are hopeful in clinching the regional title as well.

Coach Tiffany Hajdasz attributes this seasons success to hard working student athletes.

“Every season is different as the student-athletes are different, which makes the team dynamics different,” said Hajdasz. “Our current team members are the most cohesive we have had in many years. They are willing to put the goals of the team first, before their personal goals. They hold each other accountable and raise the standard of expectation from within.”

Senior Abigail Williams finished as High Point rider in Western competition during their double header Feb. 18 at Mount Holyoke College, as well as during their Feb. 19 show at the University of Connecticut.

Williams earned first in Open Horsemanship and second in Open Reining.

“Winning High Point rider was very exciting and motivated myself and others on the team to keep up our momentum,” said Williams.

Hunt Seat rider, junior Melissa Dander, earned High Point rider Feb. 5 at Trinity College.

The Pioneers also finished as High Point team during their Feb. 5 competition.

“We currently are leading our region and I hope our team continues to strive for excellence,” said Dander. “Advancing to Zones, and even Nationals, is within our reach and I would really love to see our team go all the way to Kentucky in May for Nationals.”

Winning isn’t the main goal for the Equestrian team.

“This season has never been about winning,” said Hajdasz. “It’s been about appreciating the opportunities we have been given and making the best of those opportunities.”

Hajdasz and her team set goals in the beginning of the season, improving horsemanship for the love of the sport.

These  goals include completing 720 hours of community service as a team, maintaining a GPA over 3.3, improving mental focus and positive attitudes, as well as paying attention to detail.

The team finds ways to inspire and motivate each other to be good teammates with the help of their coaching staff.

Hajdasz takes pride in her team and her staff to making sure they reach their goals for the season.

“Our coaching staff is dedicated to the personal and athletic growth of our student-athletes. We’ve been in their shoes and we feel we are lucky to be on the journey with them,” said Hajdasz.

Williams and Dander have similar individual goals for the rest of the season.

They would like to keep their leads for their respective squad in Zone 1, Region 5 in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) for the Cacchione Cup and AQHA High Point rider.

That title is given to one rider per region with the most points competing in the open division and then goes to Nationals.

Williams achieved that goal and has earned an automatic bye to Nationals in Lexington, Ky. this May.

The Pioneers will be competing in Western Semi-Finals in Raleigh, N.C. this March.

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