WACO -- The Texas A&M equestrian team waited more than 12 hours to begin competing but, once given the chance, proved the wait more than worth it on the first of three days of action at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships.
The A&M western team started the day off by jumping out to a 3-1 lead following horsemanship over a Kansas State team that dropped the Aggies 5-3 just three weeks ago in Manhattan, Kan.
Junior co-captain Sibyl Parsons (Combine) led both in and out of the ring on Thursday, cruising to the best two-judge score of her career in a 150.5-146 victory over KSU’s Alyssa Freeman.
Sophomore Caroline Gunn (Greensburg, Ind.) won her team leading 11th victory of the season with a workmanlike 149-145 win over Wildcat Laura Browne. Senior Christine Sceets (Baytown) began the final collegiate show of her career with a huge 149-148 win over KSU’s Lindsey Salsbury to secure the 3-1 lead for the Aggies.
Kansas State’s western team earned the right to face A&M after spanking Tennessee-Martin, 8-0, in the first round of the tournament.
A&M’s hunter seat team also began their national show by facing Kansas State after receiving a bye in the first round. The hunter team, like the western squad, is also looking to avenge a loss, 6-2, three weeks ago to the Wildcats. The Aggies wasted no time in trying to do so by throwing up large numbers in the fence rounds.
Sophomore co-captain Lindsay Smith (West Friendship, Md.) turned in one of the better rides of her collegiate career, winning a 167-163 shootout with Kansas State senior Whitney Snyder. Smith’s score was third-highest among 48 fence rides on Thursday.
Fellow hunter seat co-captain and senior Katie Henion (Austin) was equally as impressive, winning another high-scoring affair over Kansas State. Henion squeaked out a 161-159 win over Wildcat Ashley Collett to snap a three-match winless streak and continue A&M’s burst of momentum after Smith’s strong ride.
Sophomore Kristi Waldal (Battle Ground, Wash.) won a 155-150 match-up over KSU’s Kendall Marvin to secure the second of the Aggies’ three fence triumphs on Thursday night. The win is Waldal’s third straight at the VENC show over the last two years.
Kansas State’s hunter seat team got the chance to face the Aggies after coming out on top of No. 10 Delaware State thanks to the raw score tiebreaker after the two teams locked up at 4-4.
In other quarterfinal hunter seat action, No. 3 Georgia leads No. 6 Baylor, 3-1. Should the Aggies finish off the Wildcats on Thursday morning, they will face the Georgia-Baylor winner in the semifinals.
On the other half of the hunter seat bracket, No. 1 seed Oklahoma State is picking apart No. 8 Fresno State, 4-0, while No. 4 and three-time defending hunter champion South Carolina is locked in a 2-2 battle with SEC rival Auburn.
On the other half of the western bracket, No. 6 South Carolina is on its way towards an upset of No. 3 Oklahoma State. The Gamecocks, who lost to the Aggies in the championship final last season, lead the Cowgirls, 3-1, following the reining competition. No. 2 Georgia is also in control of its match with No. 7 Auburn, 3-0, heading into the horsemanship competition tomorrow.
On A&M’s side of the bracket, No. 1 seed TCU is one victory away from a spot in the semifinals against the winner of the A&M-KSU match. TCU leads No. 9 Baylor, 4-0.
Day two action at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Heart O’ Texas Fair Complex.