WACO, Texas - Taylor St. Jacques honestly had no clue. As her bus motored up I-35 away from Waco, the Auburn freshman wasn’t sure where the 2018 National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship trophy was. Her best guess was that it was on the other bus with some of the seniors.
No one can blame Jacques for not knowing, after all the Tigers had a lot of hardware to keep up.
Auburn capped its season by winning the 2018 NCEA team title, followed by wins in the Equitation over Fences and Horsemanship events competitions. Success there helped the Tigers earn the Western and Hunt Seat discipline titles as well. There were seven championships available on Saturday – Auburn went home with five.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Honestly, there’s no other feeling like it,” St. Jacques said. She went unbeaten over the course of the week, earning Most Outstanding Performer in the Equitation on the Flat. “The girls from the very beginning, everyone’s been all-in and there was not a moment of doubt in anyone’s mind. Having that around me is really great.”
Auburn coach Greg Williams preached focus before the team competition against Georgia began in the morning. The other four event titles were nice, but the Tigers wanted to leave the Extraco Events Center with their second title in three years and fifth crown all-time. As a league, the SEC has now won six straight NCEA team titles.
A 4-0 start from the Equitation on the Flat group set the tone as Auburn ran out to a 6-1 advantage following the Horsemanship competition. The Equitation over Fences riders helped the seal the title, going 3-1 against the Bulldogs. Auburn finished 10-5 in matchups against Georgia, including a 7-1 mark in Hunt Seat competitions.
After being crowned as the national champions, Auburn jumped back into competition mode, pulling out a 19-point win in raw score over Oklahoma State in the Equitation over Fences event. Of the four rides, three were decided by a single-digit, with Caitlin Boyle’s 171-149 win being the ultimate factor.
The Horsemanship battle was even tighter as Auburn and Georgia went down the wire. The Tigers pulled out a 587.5-586.5 win. Kelsey Jung had the largest margin in the finals at 6.5 points.
Because of their success, Auburn was also awarded Hunt Seat and Western discipline titles, putting a capper on an unbelievable week of riding.
“We were kind of worn out by the end. They’d been riding so hard this week. We don’t want to make excuses, but they had run so many patterns you could start seeing it wear on them. But they still wanted to win,” Williams said.
Georgia Wins Flat event
After a grueling morning against Auburn in the team championship, it would have been easy to understand if the Georgia equestrian squad had an off effort in the two event competitions they were in.
Instead, the Bulldogs regrouped and made sure to bring a trophy back to Athens.
Thanks to some strong rides in the Equitation on the Flat event, Georgia pulled away with a 668-516 win over Auburn in the final competition at the 2018 NCEA Championship.
“Nobody was ready to admit any kind of exhaustion at that point and wanted to step forward and show what we could do. We’re just thrilled that we were able to pull that out in our last meet of the day,” Georgia coach Meghan Boenig said.
Aggies Edge Auburn for Reining Crown
Madison Bohman’s final college ride really was her best. The Texas A&M senior scored 144.5 points to open the Reining event for the Aggies on Saturday, edging Auburn’s Alexa Rivard at 144. That half a point turned out to be the difference between winning and losing as the Aggies won the event by a score of 562.5-562 over the Tigers.