On April 2, the Sacred Heart University equestrian team competed at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Regional Championship at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. The Pioneers had five riders who secured first place in their respective events.
“The team is feeling confident going into Zones but like I said, everyone there has won their region just as we did so we need to remember to ride every step,” said junior Reagan Olson. “Although we’re confident for this weekend, we’re prepared for the many other talented riders we’ll be showing against and plan to bring it our all.”
Olson placed first in the Limit Fences event and second in the Limit Flat event, despite some obstacles she had to face.
“I had a more difficult horse on the flat that really made me work for that second-place spot,” said Olson. “The luck of the draw really has a role in your placing sometimes which is what makes college riding so difficult. You must be able to quickly adapt to the horse you’re given.”
Riders who placed either first or second in their respective event at the Regional Championship qualified for the IHSA Zone Championships. Senior Alyssa Kinney got the job done by placing first in the Open Fences event.
“There is always pressure but we want that because of the desire to go to Zones individually,” said Kinney. “Qualifying for Zones is something that I wanted to accomplish.”
Another Pioneer qualifier was junior Lily Bove, who placed second in the Open Flat event.
Not only did Bove qualify for the IHSA Zone Championships, but she was also named to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Ariat All-America Second Team in flat. In addition to this award, she was named to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association All-Academic Team.
“Going into the season, I was not expecting to win a big award like this,” said Bove. “It came as a surprise to me, but it feels great because I worked hard all year. We are in a big conference, and it was awesome to see my name on the list.”
Much of the team’s success can be credited to head coach Tiffany Hajdasz, who has been with the program since 2010.
“Coach knows what she is looking for, she knows what she wants, and she pushes us daily to become the best riders possible,” said Kinney. “It is nice to have a coach who wants you to succeed and wants you to do well.”
Overall, the Pioneers sent eight riders to the IHSA Zone Championships with an opportunity to qualify both individually and as a team for the IHSA National Championship in May as they competed at Mount Holyoke College on April 9 in South Hadley, Mass.
Bove and Olson will represent the Pioneers on the big stage as they were able to qualify individually with Bove finishing second in the Open Flat while Olson took first in the Limit Fences. This will be the first time since 2018 that the Pioneers will only send riders to the IHSA National Championship.
Sacred Heart Athletics Contributed to this Article.