WACO, Texas — This year, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association has a new award for riders of the year from each discipline, and the four winners were recently announced.
Georgia's Meg O'Mara swept the hunt seat awards by winning both the NCEA Equitation on the Flat Rider of the Year and Equitation over Fences Rider of the Year after a tremendous season for the Bulldogs.
"It's just amazing," Georgia head coach Meghan Boenig said. "Really great young lady, certainly our most decorated Bulldog, and to finish out that career with the recognition in not one, but both events, speaks to her decorated history as an athlete. So deserving, and she's such a wonderful person."
A NCEA first-team All-American in both fences and flat, O'Mara was also the SEC Rider of the Year in the two disciplines. In the postseason, she made the SEC and NCEA All-Championship squads in fences and flat.
O'Mara claimed 12 Most Outstanding Player honors on the season, six each in flat and fences. The senior compiled a 16-2 record in Equitation on the Flat and was equally as stellar in Equitation over Fences with a 15-3 record.
"I think you find someone like this once or twice in your career, if you're lucky as a coach," Boenig said. "She's just phenomenal. She has an incredible feel on horses. What's cool about her is that she's always improving on the horses. She really embodies those two events and knows how to put them together."
Moving to the Western side of things, Oklahoma State's Hannah Mitchell was named the NCEA Reining Rider of the Year. The freshman made quite the impact during her first season in collegiate equestrian, riding to a 10-2-1 record for the Cowgirls. She had five consecutive MOP honors coming against every opponent during the spring season. That resulted in Mitchell being named the 2017 Big 12 Reining Rider of the Year and she was also a NCEA first-team All-American.
"She definitely had a lot of talent coming out of her youth career, and we had been watching her for a few years," Oklahoma State head coach Larry Sanchez said. "We knew she had a lot of talent, but it is very much an unknown how effective they're going to be coming in."
The biggest key to Mitchell's early success was her willingness to accept coaching and do everything she could to become not just a good rider, but a great rider.
"She comes in every day ready to work and learn as much as she can," Oklahoma State western coach Jenna Blumer said. "She'll tell you if she needs help, and is willing to correct the mistake and make herself better."
Last but not least, Avery Ellis of Texas A&M was tagged as the NCEA Horsemanship Rider of the Year. In leading Texas A&M to the 2017 NCEA National Championship, Ellis was named the MOP in Horsemanship at the event and also earned NCEA first-team All-American honors. She was named the SEC Horsemanship Rider of the Year and was also the AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge Champion. The junior finished the season with a 13-4-1 record with five MOPs.
"It's an incredible honor knowing the company that she's in with the amazing athletes across the country," Texas A&M head coach Tana McKay said. "It's a huge accomplishment for her, and she's a great representative of our team and our university."
Ellis racked up three wins at the 2017 NCEA Championship, and was a pivotal part of the title run for the Aggies. Along with all she contributes to the team inside the fences, Ellis also has a lot of intangibles that are extremely valuable.
"She's a great teammate across the board," McKay said. "She was actually just voted by those teammates to be our team captain for next season. It's always nice when you can have an athlete of her caliber that can lead by example, in the arena and outside of the arena. I know she'll be a really good leader for the team next year."