Top-ranked Tigers set to defend national title in Waco


The No. 1 seed and defending national champion Auburn equestrian team will cap the already historic 2018-19 season at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championship, April 17-20, at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.

“This is an exciting time for our team,” head coach Greg Williams said. “There is some pressure, but I really like the mood of our team right now. I feel like we have such a strong team right now. We have great talent, but it is what they have been doing away from the arena that has made me so happy. They are truly acting ‘As One’ in all areas and we are feeling good.”

The Tigers (15-0) will face off with No. 8 seed TCU Thursday, April 18, at 8:30 a.m. CT.

In addition to the overall team competition, Auburn will look to defend its Equitation Over Fences and Horsemanship titles as well as its Hunt Seat and Western crowns during the event-only competition.

Auburn is seeded first in Fences, Horsemanship and Equitation on the Flat and will receive a bye in the first round. The No. 6 seed Reining corps will kick off the week Wednesday, April 17, at 8:30 a.m. CT, facing No. 11 Fresno State. The winner will face off with No. 3 Georgia Friday.

The Auburn lineup for the team competition features 11 riders who helped the Tigers earn the 2018 national title.

In Equitation Over Fences, the crew is led by SEC Co-Rider of the Year Caitlin Boyle. The senior is 11-2-1 in the event this season five MOPs. Joining her is sophomore Taylor St. Jacques and freshmen McKayla Langmeier and Emma Kurtz. Langmeier earned the SEC Freshman Rider of the Year in the event, while all four picked up All-America honors for the Tigers.

The Equitation on the Flat corps features three seniors in Boyle, Ashton Alexander and Hayley Iannotti. St. Jacques is set to join them as the 2019 SEC Rider of the Year in Flat, having a 9-0-1 record and seven MOPs. Alexander has a team-leading 12 wins on the year in the event, while Iannotti has 10.

Horsemanship will be guided by the SEC Rider of the Year Lauren Diaz. The senior holds a 13-2-0 record and leads the squad with seven MOPs. She is joined by fellow All-SEC performer and sophomore Taylor Searles, who is second on the team with 12 wins in the event. Senior Kelsey Jung and sophomore Deanna Green will also compete for the Tigers and all four riders earned All-America recognition.

Auburn’s Reining crew is led by a trio of seniors in Ali Fratessa, Betsy Brown and Blair McFarlin. Green is also slated to ride for the squad. Fratessa and Green picked up All-SEC honors for their performances this year in the event, while the pair with McFarlin earned All-America recognition.

The 2018-19 season marks the 17th year of varsity equestrian at Auburn. Head coach Greg Williams has guided the Tigers since the program was recognized by the Athletics Department and has amassed an impressive 156-57 overall record.

In 16 years, Auburn has earned five NCEA Championships (2006, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018), one Southeastern Conference title (2016), three Southern Equestrian Conference crowns (2004, 2010, 2011), four NCEA Hunt Seat championships (2008, 2011, 2013, 2018) and one NCEA Western championship (2018).

Individually, Auburn boasts 78 All-Americans and 82 All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman selections. The Southeastern Conference first began sponsoring equestrian in 2012-13.

Categories: Alabama Sports, Sports