Jessica Gesel (on horse) was one of five St. Andrews Presbyterian College riders to win a team class at Semifinals over the March 29th/30th weekend. The Knights scored 39 of a possible 42 team points en route to a 17-point win over reserve champ Stanford (Photo Courtesy Gary Greene/St. Andrews Presbyterian College Communications Office).


(St. Andrews Presbyterian College Communications Director Gary Greene forwarded us a press release on the Knights' dominant showing at Semifinals March 29th and 30th. The Laurinburg semifinal was the largest in terms of the number of competitors and host St. Andrews had at least one rider in the top five in all but two undergraduate classes, calling to mind the sort of one-sided post-season victories normally associated with Findlay and Ohio State - Editor)

LAURINBURG, NC – Winning five of six team events, St. Andrews Presbyterian College captured the National Western Semi Finals Championship on Sunday at the college’s Equestrian Center in Laurinburg. St. Andrews advances to the national finals in Burbank, California in mid May.

Stanford University from Stanford, California was the reserve champion while Michigan State University from East Lansing, Michigan finished third. The top three teams from three Semi Finals throughout the nation held this past weekend advance to the nationals.

“I am just so proud!” said Carla Wennberg, St. Andrews western coach. “The kids worked so hard to put everything together. We had a great leader in Peggy McElveen (director of the St. Andrews Equestrian Center) and the students worked hard in preparing themselves and preparing our horses.”

St. Andrews team members qualifying for the national championship are Alison Wrightenberry, Kelsey Moody, Erica Hill, Anne Neal Thompson, and Jessica Gesel. All five won their class during the weekend competition while Moody competed in one additional team class, taking third place.

Moody also qualified as an individual for the national finals in open horsemanship and open reining. She had previously qualified in the regionals for the American Quarter Horse Association high point rider competition. Kayla Hay from St. Andrews also qualified for individual competition in intermediate horsemanship at the national level.

“The St. Andrews riders were well turned out and the top riders competitively in every class,” said Bob Mowrey, who judged the event along with Debra Jones-Wright. As in other equestrian events, the school affiliation for the riders is unknown to the judges who concentrate on each rider’s number, he said. Mowrey is a professor and extension horse commodity coordinator at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. Jones-Wright owns and operates a horse business in the North Georgia area.

“We worked on the right things mentally and all of our prep work paid off,” said Wennberg. “Really it took all year for it all to come together today. Everybody was mentally and physically prepared and they really wanted to go to California for the national finals.”

It will be the second appearance for the St. Andrews Western Team in the nationals. The program is in its third year as a competitive team, winning the regional title for all three years. “Carla’s expertise in all aspects of western horsemanship and reining has made her an extremely effective coach and teacher,” said McElveen. “The program has come from nothing – from a backyard grassroots program to a national power.”

McElveen commented that the 2008 St. Andrews Western Team includes riders in the first class recruited by Wennberg. “Growth in the program in the next few years will continue to amaze us,” said McElveen. “As this team is successful, people will want to come and be a part of this team. It will result in recruiting more experienced competitors.”

--Gary Greene

(More Laurinburg: Though they were surprisingly not among the top three teams Black Hawk College qualified the most individual rides from the Laurinburg semifinal, with five. Zone 9, Region 2 had the most individuals who advanced, when Kelsey Ragsdale of Missouri State is added into the picture...The Stanford Cardinal school color is red and that is the color of the majority of their ribbons. Three undergraduate individuals and two team class riders earned red ribbons for Stanford. Even alumni western horsemanship rider Tricia Huerta got in the act with a second. Sabrina Wilson of the Cardinal went her own way, winning team open reining to keep St. Andrews from going undefeated...The weather was surprisingly cold, only in the 30's and 40's both days, with rain coming in sideways under the covered ring on occasion. Stanford Head Coach Vanessa Bartsch said that the Cardinal was fortunate to buy out the last hooded sweatshirts at Walmart after flying in from the West Coast with only their polo shirts on board...Like Stanford's Wilson, Black Hawk's Katie Bree can claim to have placed above a St. Andrews rider in a team class, earning second in team open reining while Moody was third...Kate Gainey is the sole individual undergraduate Nationals qualifier from Zone 5, Region 3. Gainey won the individual beginner western class late Saturday. Gainey will know at least one rider when she gets to Burbank as teammate Katie Douglass will compete in the individual AQHA Trophy division. Riders in the individual AQHA qualify directly to Nationals as a region's high point open rider (the rider with the most combined reining and rail points for the regular season)...Zone 5, Region 3 can claim the most successful alumni rider in Laurinburg for the weekend in Melissa Williams. The Wesleyan College graduate won alumni western while placing second in alumni reining to Bucks County's Alexis Plavacos...Michigan State may not have taken a team to Nationals in over ten seasons but the Spartans once had a great program in the late '80's/early '90's, winning the National Championship in 1989 while tieing Western Kentucky for the honor in 1990...Only once during the weekend did riders from the same region place first and second individually in Laurinburg. Sarah Woody of Martin Community College, who finished second to Moody in the Zone 4, Region 3 western open rider standings, finished second to Moody in individual open reining...And only once during the weekend did riders from the same school earn consecutive placings and a trip to Nationals through Laurinburg when James Hobbie and Shilpa Deshpande placed second and third, respectively in individual novice western for the University of Delaware. - Editor)

Class-by-Class Results from IHSA Semifinals in Laurinburg, North Carolina on March 29th and 30th, 2008. Riders who placed fourth or higher in the individual classes advanced to IHSA Nationals May 8th through 11th in Burbank, California:

Individual Open Western Horsemanship: 1. Kelsey Moody, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Ashley Hoffmann, Stanford University. 3. Emily Monacelli, Western Michigan University. 4. Nicole Sorgie, Delaware Valley College. 5. Laura Somerville, Western Michigan University. 6. Molly Peyton, University of Kentucky. 7. Sabrina Wilson, Stanford University. 8. Randi Fay Cashman, Centenary College.

Alumni Western Horsemanship: 1. Melissa Williams, Wesleyan College. 2. Tricia Huerta, Stanford University. 3. Codi Burris, University of Wyoming. 4. Lacey Werczynski, University of Kentucky. 5. Alexis Plavacos, Bucks County Community College. 6. Tristan Mallory, College of the Sequoias. 7. Whitney Eisentraut, Delaware Valley College. 8. Jennifer Reed, Missouri State University.

Team Intermediate Western Horsemanship: 1. Alison Wrightenberry, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Lisamarie Radomski, Michigan State University. 3. Katie Lampert, Stanford University. 4. Lisa Sidwell, Midway College. 5. Ryan Butler, Black Hawk College. 6. Nic Walker, United States Military Academy. 7. Tara Wilhelm, Delaware Valley College. 8. Kate Gainey, Florida State University.

Team Open Reining: 1. Sabrina Wilson, Stanford University. 2. Katie Bree, Black Hawk College. 3. Kelsey Moody, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 4. Cody Bouckaert, Midway College. 5. Chelsey Shivley, Michigan State University. 6. Bethany Moore, Delaware Valley College. 7. Kate Douglass, Florida State University. 8. Ashley Davidson, United States Military Academy.

Team Advanced Western Horsemanship: 1. Erica Hill, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Holly Hermann, Florida State University. 3. Raquel Rascon, United States Military Academy. 4. Jamie Kalleward, Michigan State University. 5. Brittany Malinoski, Delaware Valley College. 6. Jennifer Laude, Midway College. 7. Tara Smithee, Stanford University. 8. Cari Ingle, Black Hawk College.

Individual Intermediate Western Horsemanship: 1. Marlana Barkow, Black Hawk College. 2. Becky Deffett, Stanford University. 3. Kayla Hay, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 4. Robert Graham, Black Hawk College. 5. Jennifer Whittle, University of Kentucky. 6. Corrine Yerke, Appalachian State University. 7. Jillian Neville, University of Delaware. 8. Elizabeth Smith, Morehead State University.

Alumni Reining: 1. Alexis Plavacos, Bucks County Community College. 2. Melissa Williams, Wesleyan College. 3. Whitney Eisentraut, Delaware Valley College. 4. Cody Burris, University of Wyoming.

Individual Beginner Western Horsemanship: 1. Kate Gainey, Florida State University. 2. Javier Aliver, Stanford University. 3. Jenna Dailey, Morehead State University. 4. Kelly Barber, Virginia Tech. 5. Amanda Baker, College of the Sequoias. 6. Lydia Wilhem, Midway College. 7. April Roos, Wesleyan College. 8. Emily Janosko, University of Delaware.

Individual Open Reining: 1. Kelsey Moody, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Sarah Woody, Martin Community College. 3. Kelsey Ragsdale, Missouri State University. 4. Katie Bree, Black Hawk College. 5. Ashley Hoffman, Stanford University. 6. Nicole Sorgie, Delaware Valley College. 7. Morgan Arrick, Western Michigan University. 8. Maggie Amundson, College of the Sequoias.

Individual Advanced Western Horsemanship: 1. Emily Gaskin, University of Kentucky. 2. Andrea Spencer, Black Hawk College. 3. Jacquelyn Girardot, Grand Valley State University. 4. Whitney Turner, Morehead State University. 5. Chelsea Caron, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 6. Rachel Olson, Black Hawk College. 7. Ashley Van Houten, Grand Valley State University. 8. Allison Jones, Virginia Tech.

Individual Novice Western Horsemanship: 1. Natalie Soderborg, Black Hawk College. 2. James Hobbie, University of Delaware. 3. Shilpa Deshpande, University of Delaware. 4. Amanda Deaton, Grand Valley State University. 5. Crystal MacDonald, Appalachian State University. 6. Jennifer Laude, Midway College. 7. Raquel Rascon, United States Military Academy. 8. Danan Bradley, Missouri State University.

Team Novice Western Horsemanship: 1. Anne Neal Thompson, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Sarah Leavengood, Delaware Valley College. 3. Charlene Kolodziej, Michigan State University. 4. Carly McDermott, Florida State University. 5. Robert Graham, Black Hawk College. 6. Anne Gomez, Stanford University. 7. Korin Hullinger, Midway College. 8. Stephanie Whitaker, United States Military Academy.

Team Open Western Horsemanship: 1. Kelsey Moody, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Sabrina Wilson, Stanford University. 3. Stephanie Murray, Michigan State University. 4. Andrea Spencer, Black Hawk College. 5. Erica Owen, Midway College. 6. Kate Douglass, Florida State University. 7. Nicole Sorgie, Delaware Valley College. 8. Ashleigh Davidson, United States Military Academy.

Team Beginner Western Horsemanship: 1. Jessica Gesel, St. Andrews Presbyterian College. 2. Chris Holve, Stanford University. 3. Sarah Smith, Midway College. 4. Sabrina Szabo, United States Military Academy. 5. Brittani Bequeith, Black Hawk College. 6. Detra Deatrick, Delaware Valley College. 7. Karli McDonald, Florida State University. 8. Aleta Daniels, Michigan State University.

Final Western Team Totals, with the top three teams advancing to IHSA Nationals May 8th through 11th in Burbank, California: St. Andrews Presbyterian College (High Point Team) 39; Stanford University (Reserve) 22; Michigan State University 18; Black Hawk College 14; Midway College 13; Delaware Valley College 9; Florida State University 9 and United States Military Academy 8.

(Special thanks to Marsha Toyne for her help in gathering these results - Editor)


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