STILLWATER, Okla.- The Texas A&M equestrian team pulled off easily its most thrilling win since switching to varsity-only competition with a back-against-the-wall effort over rival Oklahoma State at Animal Science Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The Aggies (9-1) found themselves down 12-9 with five rides left in the entire competition. To further complicate matters, OSU (6-5) held a decided advantage in the tiebreaker meaning A&M had to win all five remaining head-to-head matches in order to win the competition. With both hunter seat contests and the horsemanship event completed, the entire show fell on the Aggie reiners’ shoulders.
Sensational sophomore Tonna Brooks (Newberg, Ore.) ran her seasonal undefeated streak to 15-0 by winning the first of the five must-win battles over OSU’s Leah Kuehn, 72-68.5. Brooks also won her earlier horsemanship match, a 74.5-70.5 victory over Cowgirl Kilee Stewart.
In the next match, OSU senior Rachel Curratt needed a 68 to best Aggie sophomore Crissy Greebon (Richmond) who, at that point in time, had the lowest reining score of the day. However Curratt incurred a significant number of penalties on her run giving birthday girl Greebon a 67.5-65.5 win, her first of the season.
With three victories still needed, sophomore Amanda Ryan (Ramona, Calif.) rode her way to a 72-69 win over Cowgirl Molly Tipton, pushing her seasonal reining record to 4-2-1.
In the penultimate match of the day, both freshman Maddi Williams (Valley View) and OSU veteran Katie Bohr produced two of the four best rides of the competition, however the Aggie youngster walked away with the must-have win, 74-73.5.
With the outcome of the entire competition in the balance, the Aggies needed undefeated freshman Maggie Gratny (Leavenworth, Kan.) to work her magic. Oklahoma State freshman Rachell Shobe, who Gratny was matched up against, lit up the scoreboard with a 75.5 on her round, the highest of the entire day. Ever-dependable, even in the face of long odds, Gratny delivered, posting an MVP-winning performance of 76.5 the second-highest by any A&M reining rider all year long.
“I was very proud of all my Aggies today,” A&M head coach Tana Rawson said. “Maggie and I did not know that it had come down to her before she went in the arena. We just knew she had a big score to beat after what Rachell had done. Maggie had a plan for her run; she stuck to it and it paid off! What made it even more exciting was that the English team (who had been competing in the indoor arena all day) had finished and they were all there to see and cheer on the last few reining runs. Our team unity there at the end was very touching to see. I am so proud to be one of their coaches!”
Thanks to those five consecutive wins to close the show, A&M won the reining competition 5-2. Coupled with an earlier 3-2 win in horsemanship against the Cowgirls, the Aggie western team ran their season record to 9-0.
Freshman Caroline Gunn (Greensburg, Ind.) maintained her collegiate undefeated streak in horsemanship by claiming a 77-75.5 win over OSU’s Samantha Davidson. Amanda Ryan was one of two western riders, along with Tonna Brooks, to earn two individual victories against Oklahoma State. Ryan beat Cowgirl Suzanne Randolph, 72.5-69 in the first horsemanship match of the day. Senior co-captain Sassie Broaddus (El Paso) and freshman Amanda Cushman (Madisonville) earned ties in their matches as well.
On the hunter seat side, sophomore co-captain Courtney Brooks (Alamo, Calif.) won a pair of tough, tight matches to help set the table for the western team to shut the door in the end. Brooks won an 81-78 decision over fences over 2006 regional high point champion Bailey Mahoney then bested OSU junior Michelle Woolschlager 82-79 in the final hunt seat ride of the day on the flat.
“We are really glad to have Courtney back in the saddle again for us,” hunter seat coach Linzy Woolf said. “She has quickly become an important component of a good young team that is beginning to come into its own. As the youngest of the four team captains, her leadership abilities and calm, cool head are helping to bring confidence and strengthen our group as it matures into where we want it to go.”
Sophomore Christina Matz (McKinney) continued her hot streak with an 81-73 win over Samantha Collingsworth in equitation on the flat. Matz has posted a perfect 8-0 record this season. Junior co-captain Viviana Cordero (Sunland, Calif.) gave A&M a third win on the flat, squeaking out a 72-71 win over OSU’s Brittany Myers.
Over fences, junior Katie Henion (Austin) ran her seasonal record to 8-2 with a low-scoring 65-62 win over Cowgirl Natalie Chappell. Freshman Kristi Waldal (Battle Ground, Wash.) won her second fences match over OSU this year, this time earning an 80-75 win.
The Aggies will compete in their final regular season head-to-head competition on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Kansas State in Manhattan. The Aggies defeated Kansas State, 14-8, in College Station six days ago.