Tuesday, September 29, 2015 | by Kendra Willard, Auburn Athletics

What personifies a successful student-athlete? Leadership and drive are definitely desired qualities as well as a love for sport and team. Along with consistent success in all competitive endeavors, these create an individual that can achieve almost anything. Auburn equestrian senior Elizabeth Benson is a student-athlete that humbly exemplifies all of these qualities and they have poised her to become one of the best in collegiate riding.

“Elizabeth is a hard worker and definitely the leader on the team,” teammate and fellow senior Hailey Munger said. “She keeps our spirits up, is never negative, is a great teammate, and has been very successful in the process.”

Her hard-working nature was apparent the moment she set foot on campus as a freshman and that drive has created a teammate that all can look up to.

“Elizabeth worked very hard when she first came here and let her actions in competition and away from it speak for her,” head coach Greg Williams said. "Her attitude and ability as a freshman allowed her to lead by example. She didn’t talk about what she was going to do. She just did it. And she continues to do that today.”

Whether it is cheering on her teammates during competition or providing supportive feedback at practice, Benson has fully embraced her role as a member of the program.

“It’s all about the team here at Auburn,” Benson said. “In the leadership role I have, I need to pay attention to all my teammates that are competing and practicing and make sure everyone is putting their best foot forward to better our team.

“As a senior, it is also my responsibility on meet days to make sure everyone is pumped up, ready to go, and ready to win,” Benson added. “We have a really good shot to win it all this year and we’re excited about that. It takes the entire team to put forth the effort.”

Not only has Benson evolved as leader, but she’s become one of the program’s most decorated competitors. With her final season newly underway, the Whitehouse Station, N.J., product, already has the most combined wins in Auburn equestrian history with 70. That total includes a program-record 40 in Equitation over Fences along with 30 in Equitation on the Flat.

“I had my eyes on the Fences record last year,” Benson said. “My mind was set on it and I really worked hard to get there. My focus this year is on the Flat record and I’m only eight wins away.”

On top of team records, Benson has garnered a plethora of team, conference, and national honors. The reigning SEC Fences Rider of the Year is also a two-time First Team All-American. She is a three-time All-SEC performer and in 2013, she was the Most Outstanding Player at the NCEA Championships as well as the SEC Freshman of the Year.

“Elizabeth is one of the greatest college riders in this sport,” Williams said. “She has an opportunity this year to seal the deal that she is the best.”

Her competitive success stems back to her start in the sport. Riding since she was three, she started showing horses at five and has been competing ever since. Benson found success all over the United States and it all came together when she reached her biggest milestone by winning nationals at the 2012 Washington Junior Equitation final.

“Showing horses was my parents business growing up so it was already in my blood,” Benson said. “After showing on a local basis, I moved to competing at nationals and then started going throughout the country and was very successful. That is what got me here to Auburn.”

Despite already having many accolades to date, Benson’s attitude and focus hasn’t wavered and there are still many goals to reach in her final season with the Tigers.

“I’d like to finish the postseason undefeated,” Benson said. “Whether that means staying cool under pressure or putting in the extra work at practice, I’m really determined to have that as something I’ve accomplished here. That Flat record is also in my sights.”

Regardless of what happens this season, Benson has set herself up for success following her collegiate career. Horses will always be a part of her life no matter where she finds herself next year.

“Elizabeth has positioned herself to do whatever she wants,” Williams said. “We want all our student-athletes to put themselves in a position to chase any dream they want. She has done that.”

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