NCEA Distinguished Alumni Awards

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association in 2016 created the NCEA Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The awards are presented to women who, after the completion of their undergraduate degree at an NCEA-sponsoring institution, have made significant contributions in a professional field.

Distinguished Alumni are recognized in eight categories including Business, Community Engagement, Education, Equine Industry (Rider/Trainer/Coach), Equine Industry (Medical/Pharmaceutical), Health Sciences/Services, Media & Communication, and Young Alumni. Distinguished Alumni are separated from their institution for at least six years prior to nomination and are recognized as distinguished in the following areas: academic success, athletic success, outstanding service contributions, and post-graduate success.

Each NCEA team has the opportunity to nominate one alumna in each category annually. The nominations are reviewed by a selection committee and the recommendations are then approved by the NCEA Board of Directors.

Class of 2017

  • Business: Shelby White (Baylor)
  • Community Engagement: Kelsy Abell (UT Martin)
  • Education: Jessica Leatherwood (Texas A&M)
  • Equine (Rider/Trainer/Coach): Ruth Sorrel (South Carolina)
  • Equine (Medical/Business): Viviana Dunlap (Texas A&M)
  • Health Sciences/Services: Brittany Kasprack (UT Martin)
  • Media & Communication: Jennifer Wood (South Carolina)
  • Young Alumni: Paige Linne (Texas A&M)

Previous Years

Business: Shelby White, Baylor

As a member of Baylor’s inaugural Equestrian team, Shelby worked hard to improve her riding skills in a new competition format. She was a “go-to” rider who kept her cool in pressure situations. Not only did she strive to maintain a show rider position, she practiced daily, competed in every meet, and maintained a high GPA in the Baylor Honors Program. While performing day-to-day team responsibilities, she studied, prepared and took the LSAT the Saturday before competing in our National Championship. She graduated from Baylor School of Law in 2012 and has been practicing law since that time. Shelby is actively engaged in many different community service activities including time with the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

Community Engagement: Kelsy Abell (UT Martin)

Kelsy Abell was a member of the UT Martin Equestrian Team from 2008-2011. She maintained a 3.97 GPA and was repeatedly on the Chancellors Honor Roll and named to the Ohio Valley Conference Commissioners Honor Roll. Kelsy had 62 credit hours transfer in from dual enrollment which allowed her to graduate college in three years. Athletically, Kelsy was one of UT-Martin’s top competitors in the flat arena. In 2009-2010, she held a 65% winning record along with 3 MVPS for the team. Her statistics ranked her as one of the top 15 riders in Equitation on the Flat. Kelsy also was an employee through the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as a student assistant, responsible for the oversight and care of the UT-Martin herd of 30 horses. She was very conscientious, trustworthy and responsible with all of her tasks. She communicated well with health or barn situations and had the foresight to bring potential problems to the staff’s attention before they escalate. Upon graduating UT Martin, Kelsy was accepted to Michigan’s State Veterinary School and graduated in 2016. During this time, she enlisted in the United States Army. Today, she serves as a Captain in the U.S. Army and is trained as a first line of defense with food and biosecurity safety for our country.

Education: Jessica Leatherwood (Texas A&M)

Jessica Leatherwood distinguished herself as an outstanding student at Texas A&M graduating summa cum laude in 2007 from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She was awarded the AQHA Young Investigator Research Award and completed her master’s degree in 2009. Jessica finished her doctoral work at Texas A&M in 2013 and started her career as an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University where she worked for three years before joining the faculty at Texas A&M as an Assistant Professor of Animal Science. Jessica was an integral part of the Aggie Equestrian team and was team captain 2004-2007 and was member of the western national championship team in 2005 and 2007. It is obvious from all of her accomplishments listed above that she has continued to make an impact on the equine world. Just as she made an impact on Texas A&M’s young team, she now has a profound impact in the classroom at Texas A&M.

Equine (Rider/Trainer/Coach): Ruth Sorrel (South Carolina)

Ruth Sorrel has had a steadfast influence on the University of South Carolina’s equestrian team as a coach, student athlete and alumnus. As captain of the 1999-2000 team she earned the respect of both teammates and opponents. She was an outstanding competitor and was recognized at both the zone and national level in IHSA competitions. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Insurance and Risk Management. Ruth had an immediate impact on collegiate equestrian programs and started her career at Fresno State in 2003 and Auburn in 2004 before joining the Gamecock Equestrian staff in 2005. In her role with the University of South Carolina she as be integral to a long list of championship awards including 4 national championship titles, 1 national runner up title, 3 SEC championship titles, and has coached 5 first team All-Americans and multiple Riders of the Year at the national and conference level. Ruth continues to contribute to the NCEA through her active leadership on a variety of standing committees – including the Finance Committee, the Championship Committee, the Sponsorship Committee, and the Sport Advancement Committee.

Equine (Medical/Business): Viviana Dunlap (Texas A&M)

Viviana Dunlap received her bachelor’s degree in Animal Science in 2008 and began her graduate degree in Equine reproduction. Her thesis titled, The Development and Evaluation of a Mathematical Model to Predict Digestible Energy Intake of Broodmares Based on Body Condition Changes was published following conferral of her master’s degree in 2011. A team captain in 2007-2008, Viviana was a member of the 2008 VENC Hunter Seat Reserve National Champions and received Most Valuable Player awards in both Fences and on the Flat. During her graduate degree program she continued to work with Texas A&M Equestrian Team as the graduate student coach and assistant barn manager.

After graduate school, Viviana continued within equine industry and moved into leadership positions at each stop in her career. In 2010, she interned at Shadwell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, a Thoroughbred racing operation owned by the Deputy Ruler of Dubai- Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. After the internship, was hired full time at Shadwell Farm as barn manager in the Broodmare Department where she helped foal, wean, and train Grade 1 Stakes-winning racehorses. In 2012, she accepted a position at Wickliffe Pharmaceuticals, a Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy, where she became a Certified Aseptic Technician and compounded all sterile injectable drugs for horses while serving as the Lead in the Pharmacy’s Sterile Laboratory. In 2014, was hired by the United States Equestrian Federation, governing body of Equestrian sport. She currently works as a Case Manager of the Regulation Department for USEF where she works to enforce the rules and regulations of the Federation, with emphasis on equine welfare, rider safety, and fair competition.

Health Sciences/Services: Brittany Kasprack (UT Martin)

Dr. Brittany Kasprack was a member of the UT Martin Equestrian Team from 2008-2011. She excelled academically completed her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science before completing her master’s degree at Logan University in Sports Rehab. In 2015 she earned her Doctorate in Chiropractic from Logan University.

As a member of the UT Martin campus community, she was extremely active outside of the team; a member of Summer Orientation and Registration Staff, a campus Ambassador, a Residential Advisor and served in leadership roles within professional organizations. She served multiple years on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and was responsible for starting the “Code Orange” events on our campus to indicate meets/games that were vital to each individual sport for increased attendance. In the arena, Brittany competed in Equitation over Fences. In her three and a half years of competition, she earned 22 wins and was awarded 11 MOPS. She competed for the team at conference and national championship for three years and was part of the first team at UT Martin to finish in the top ten. Brittany was part of the Equestrian program at UT Martin at ground level. During her tenure, she was active in promoting and developing the team just as much as competing for it.

Today, Brittany is a successful business owner of Mid-South Chiropractic. She is licensed in Mississippi and Tennessee and holds several recognitions and memberships within her professional realm. She also continues to ride and compete as an amateur in the Memphis area.

Media & Communication: Jennifer Wood (South Carolina)

Jennifer Wood graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She was a four year scholarship athlete with South Carolina Equestrian. Jennifer competed as open point rider in fences in the IHSA Zone 5, Region 2. She was the High Point Hunt Seat rider in IHSA Zone 5, Region 2 for two years and she competed in Caccione Cup and finished second in 2000.

Jennifer was a freelance writer and photographer with Phelps Media group before forming her own company – Jennifer Wood Media, Inc., which is a comprehensive public relations marketing firm for the equestrian industry. Her company acts as a PR and marketing firm, sponsor liaison, pressroom manager, and social media manager. While at Phelps, Jennifer covered many major international equestrian events including the 2005-2009 FEI World Cup Finals, the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen Germany and the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong. Jennifer is a member of the International Alliance of Equine Journalists and in 2006, won the USEF Pegasus Award for media in the category of Best Single News Article.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc., was launched in 2010 and became known for its work promoting the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, G&C Farm and Capital Challenge Horse Show. Jennifer’s work with USEF has helped promote American teams at Aachen, CHIO, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and the Adequan/FEI North American Junior Young Rider Championships. Her company just finished covering the Winter Equestrian Festival that ended in March. Jennifer is also listed as a 2013 and 2014 ESMA expert.

Young Alumni: Paige Linne (Texas A&M)

Paige Linne graduated in 2015 cum laude and immediately pursued graduate work in the Equine Industry Management degree program with an anticipated graduation date of May 2017. Paige was recognized by the SEC and the NCEA as a member of the Academic Honor Roll from 2013-2015. She was a member of the 2012 National Champion team and in 2014 she won the Aggie Heart Award which recognizes team, spirit, honor, and heart. Paige was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was recognized by that fellowship with awards for athletic performance and character.

Immediately after graduation, Paige assumed the role of coach of the Texas A&M Stock Horse Team. In her first year she coached the team to the following awards: American Stock Horse Association Collegiate Co-champions, Oklahoma Stock Horse Association Champion Collegiate Team, Stock Horse of Texas Champion Collegiate Team, and Stock Horse of Texas World Finals Show Reserve Champion. Paige is still actively involved with the Texas A&M NCAA team and attends competitive events. Last summer she was selected as the first NCEA graduate intern where she assumed responsibilities for a variety of tasks associated with the new school initiative and was a member of the NCEA Sport Advancement Committee. She was integral in the development of information materials for athletic department administrators who were considering the addition of Equestrian on their campus.