MANHATTAN, Kan.—- The Texas A&M equestrian team swallowed a bitter 10-9 loss to Big 12 rival Kansas State at Fox Creek Stables on Sunday afternoon.
A&M’s western team, who exactly one week earlier handily defeated Kansas State by a score of 9-2, lost its first match of the season in stunning fashion, 6-3, after losing both horsemanship (3-1) and reining (3-2).
Perhaps the most bewildering moment of the day came when the western judge awarded most valuable rider honors in horsemanship to A&M freshman Caroline Gunn (Greensburg, Ind.). The surprise came not in that Gunn won MVP honors (the former youth world champion has done so four times this season), but that Gunn won the award despite not even winning her head-to-head match. Gunn, who entered the show undefeated, was awarded a score of 76.5 which, at first glance, would have tied KSU freshman Laura Browne, however, after further review, Browne’s score was reportedly miscalculated and was bumped up to 77, handing Gunn her first collegiate loss.
“I was really proud of my girls and wouldn’t have changed anything in the way that they rode their patterns,” A&M horsemanship coach Beth Bass said. “It was just of those days that can occur every once in a while in this sport. In the long run, this will only strengthen our resolve as a team as we head into the post-season. This was a tough loss with all the momentum we have been building as this year has progressed. We certainly don’t want to let this situation get us off track towards our end-of-the-season goals. Our girls are resilient and will bounce back from this like the champions that they are.”
Gunn wasn’t the only Aggie who entered the day undefeated that ended it with a loss. Freshman Maggie Gratny (Leavenworth, Kan.), who was the star of the show against Oklahoma State a day earlier, dropped a 76.5-73.5 decision to KSU senior Sara Weller. Gratny entered the show in her home state with a perfect 9-0 record.
On the English side, sophomore Christina Matz (McKinney), who has not lost a varsity match in two years, was handed a 81-62 defeat by KSU sophomore Leslie Yates. Matz entered the show with a flawless 8-0 mark.
The only Aggie to emerge from the ‘Little Apple’ with an unscathed season record was sophomore Tonna Brooks (Newberg, Ore.). Brooks, one of only two A&M western riders to finish first all day, won both of her head-to-head match-ups. Brooks, now a perfect, and awe-inspiring, 17-0 on the season grabbed the Aggies’ only horsemanship victory, a 72.5-72 squeaker over Wildcat Jana Lechtenberg. Brooks also won her reining match, 69.5-66.5, over KSU’s Morgan Campbell.
Sophomore Amanda Ryan (Ramona, Calif.) was the other Aggie to grab a western win, a 69.5-60.5 reining win over Wildcat Lindsey Salsbury. Ryan has now posted three straight reining victories and has a 5-2-1 record in the discipline on the season.
Things did manage to go much better for A&M in the English ring. One week after dropping a 6-5 decision to Kansas State, the Aggies exacted revenge with a 6-4 team win.
The English victory came on the strength of a top-to-bottom stellar performance by its fence riders. All five of A&M’s fences riders posted scores over 80, resulting in a 4-1 win in the discipline.
Sophomore Erin Ivy (Cypress) won MVP honors over fences with an 85-82 victory over KSU’s Leslie Yates. Ivy’s score equaled the second-best of any A&M rider over fences all season.
Junior Katie Henion (Austin) and freshman Kristi Waldal (Battle Ground, Wash.) each earned weekend sweeps over fences. Henion, who leads the team with nine fence victories this season, captured an 84-80.5 win over Casey Finnell while Waldal defeated Gentry Horigan, 81.5-65. Freshman Lindsay Smith (West Friendship, Md.) tacked on the Aggies’ fourth fences win, an 83-78 triumph over flat MVP Whitney Snyder of Kansas State.
Sophomore Ashlie Soderstrom (Lake Oswego, Ore.) was the Aggies’ high scorer on the flat, handily defeating KSU’s Bridget Doyle, 84.5-57. Sophomore Ali Mueller (Long Beach, Miss.) earned A&M’s other flat win, a 77-63.5 victory over Casey Finnell.
“We knew we would have our work cut out for us against Kansas State today after seeing how strongly they rode at our house last week,” A&M English coach Linzy Woolf said. “I definitely think that last week’s loss to Kansas State combined with yesterday’s loss to OSU caused our girls to have the extra will to pull out the win in English today. You could see it in their eyes when they rode in the ring. Their confidence was quite intimidating and obvious.”
With the loss, A&M falls to 9-2 on the season. Kansas State raised its record to
The Aggies will spend the next month preparing to host the Big 12 Classic on March 31 and April 1st at N.W. ‘Dick’ Freeman Arena in College Station. The other three Big 12 schools, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, will all compete against the Aggies in a four-team tournament in what will be a precursor to an eventual Big 12 championship some time in the future.