Change remains a consistent theme in equestrian, both at South Dakota State and at the national level, and the Jackrabbits would like to change one more thing in the 2015-16 season, and return to NCEA Nationals for the first time since 2013, when the Jacks not only made it to nationals, but advanced to the second round for the first time in school history.
One sure change for the upcoming season comes in the head coach, as Megan Rossiter stepped down over the summer after guiding the program to an 18-29 overall record in four seasons at the helm, which includes the program’s first wins at NCEA Nationals in 2013.
After one year as the Jackrabbits assistant coach, Ellie Wilkins takes over as the program’s fourth head coach. A standout on a pair of national championship teams at Texas A&M, Wilkins brings an abundance of championship experience, and sees the potential in this year’s Jackrabbit squad.
“We return a first-team and two honorable mention All-Americans from last year’s team, and a first-teamer from 2014-15, so talent isn’t an issue,” Wilkins said. “We lost some great seniors for sure, but the cupboard is far from bare in terms of talent.”
Now a sophomore, Mariah Wright earned first-team All-American honors in reining after posting a 9-3-1 record as a freshman, which includes a school single-season record five MOP.
Wright’s classmate Miranda Sullivan earned honorable mention All-American honors in reining after going 6-4-3 as a freshman, with a pair of MOP to her credit, while incoming senior, and the school’s all-time reining wins leader, Raivenne Scott earned first-team reining honors in 2013-14.
“Reining is clearly a strong point on this team, but in order to achieve our goal of returning to nationals, we need all four events to win points,” Wilkins said. “We’re traditionally strong in western events, so our good group of returning hunt seat riders could really put us over the top.”
Senior Marielle Golden leads that strong group of hunt seat riders after setting SDSU single-season records for wins both on the flat and over fences last season. On the flat, she finished with a 9-4 record, adding an 8-6 mark over fences with a combined three MOP in the two events.
Already the school’s career record-holder with 14 wins on the flat, Golden needs eight more over fences to take over first place in that event as well.
“Marielle is a special rider,” Wilkins said. “She doesn’t win a ton of MOP awards, but she always seems to score enough to win the point, which is what we need. The MOPs will come, I’m not worried about that, and neither is she.”
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE SEASON PREVIEW