She was eleventh in the Rail Phase and seventh in the Reining Phase. Missouri State senior Valerie Craft (center, between Bears coaches Dr. Garry Webb and Sue Webb) finished ninth overall out of 22 riders entered in the individual AQHA Trophy division at 2009 IHSA Nationals.


MURFREESBORO, TN - Back in 1979 the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) formed a partnership with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). The IHSA hoped to draw attention to the fact that the organization now offered Western divisions on a regional basis, while the AQHA wanted to reach out to young riders via new avenues such as the 12-year-old IHSA at the time.

During a break on the third day of 2009 IHSA Nationals, the IHSA and the AQHA celebrated their 30 year alliance with a ceremony in the middle of the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Among those to speak on behalf of the IHSA were Ohio State Head Coach Ollie Griffith, Middle Tennessee State Head Coach Anne Brzezicki, and IHSA Founder and Executive Director Bob Cacchione. A sign was prominently displayed in the winner's circle near the out-gate, simply reading "IHSA & AQHA 30 Year Partnership."

During that 30 year partnership it came to pass that the AQHA decided to sponsor both the Western Team Competition and the top prize for the best individual open rider at the year-end National show. The AQHA Trophy is presented to the high point western team at Nationals, while the open rider receives the similarly-named AQHA High Point Rider Trophy. To shorten things slightly, Campus Equestrian could refer to the latter award as the AQHAHPRT, but instead we choose to call it the individual AQHA Trophy.

University of Montana Western senior Kristen Gfroerer (on left, with her Mother) was one of fewer than ten riders to compete in both Western and English classes at 2009 Nationals. Gfroerer was seventh in the AQHA rail phase and eighth in reining. However her overall placing worked out to sixth when all rider's scores were combined.

To compete for the Individual AQHA Trophy a rider must first finish the regular season with the most combined Open Reining and Open Western Horsemanship points in that rider's region. For example Allison Kralovansky of St. Mary of the Woods College finished the regular season with a combined 86 points in Zone 9, Region 1, giving her the lead in that region by a stupendous 40 points. Kralovansky thus automatically qualified to compete for the AQHA Trophy at Nationals against 21 others, including defending individual AQHA Trophy winner Katie Morehead. Now a sophomore, Morehead came from behind at the winter break to finish ahead of her University of Findlay teammate Ryan Sims by a 101-88 total within Zone 6, Region 3. Findlay thus qualified a rider for Nationals in the division for a ninth consecutive season.

From year-to-year usually between four and seven riders are repeat entries in the Individual AQHA. Five riders who qualified for the 2008 AQHA division made it back in '09 while 2007 qualifier Lisa Rincon was another with a prior appearance. The Stanford University senior from Kamuela, Hawaii was one of only two riders who could claim to have competed at '07 Nationals for the Trophy and was qualified again two years later.

The other repeat entries were United States Military Academy sophomore Randi Cashman, who finished ninth in Burbank a year earlier; Berry College sophomore Allie Jones and Florida State University junior Katie Douglass, each of whom was out of the ribbons at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (within this division); Morehead, and Ohio State senior Keith Ceddia, who was competing for the Individual AQHA Trophy a third consecutive season. Ceddia had been out of the ribbons in Burbank but was the Reserve National Champion two seasons ago when the competition was held at the Eastern States Exposition (or the Big E) in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Four other riders had previous IHSA Nationals experience, though not in the Individual AQHA division. As a freshman Kralovansky was fifth in individual novice western horsemanship at Harrisburg. Kralovansky accomplished this while riding for Purdue University, which she attended for one year before transfering to St. Mary of the Woods. University of Kentucky junior Molly Peyton had shown for the hunter seat team at the Big E, placing out of the ribbons in team intermediate over fences. Oregon State senior Sara Gibson had been very consistant in prior Nationals rides. The Oregon City, Oregon resident was second in team advanced western horsemanship at Harrisburg and second in team open western horsemanship at the Big E. And Errolynne Franck of West Texas A & M University could even claim a previous championship. The senior from Ephrata, Washington won individual advanced western horsemanship at the LAEC (becoming one of only two non-Findlay riders to win an undergraduate individual western class at the '08 National show).

The remaining 12 riders were all to make their IHSA debuts on April 24, 2009. One was Catherine Howland of Morrisville State College, the only freshman to capture high point western open rider honors in any region. First-time sophomores were Justin Eddins of Martin Community College, who edged out 2008 qualifier Kelsey Moody of St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Zone 4, Region 3 by a 68-66 score; Catie Pabst of Cal Poly - Pomona, who won out by even less over Amanda Brightwell of the University of California at San Diego in Zone 8, Region 2, prevailing 71-70; and Jennifer Nagel of the State University of New York at Oswego, who also survived by only a point. Nagel bested Katie Mix of Alfred University for the top spot in Zone 2, Region 2 by 64-63. Juniors making their Nationals debuts were Amanda Peterson of the University of Minnesota at Crookston, who prevailed in Zone 9, Region 3 by a comfortable 71-43 margin over Jordanne Blair of South Dakota State; Tricia Marheine of Albion College, who squeaked out a 77-76 margin over Stephanie Murray of Michigan State in Zone 6, Region 4; Katie Heller of Bloomsburg University, who was the only rider in the AQHA division to win a ride-off to get there. Heller and Renae Burks of West Virginia University both finshed with 81 points, and a ride-off for high point following the final Zone 3, Region 4 western show on March 15th went to Heller; and Mindy Leach of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, whose margin we do not know as we are still hoping to receive the final Zone 7, Region 1 western points for 2008-09. We are also still hoping for the final Zone 9, Region 2 western points to learn by how many points Missouri State senior Valerie Craft prevailed by to qualify. Other first-time seniors were Kristen Gfroerer of the University of Montana Western; Callie Edie of Murray State University and Bernadette Loomis of Washington College.

She was fifth in the rail division on April 24th. Then on April 26th she was fourth in reining. When the totals were combined West Texas A & M senior Errolynne Franck was fifth in the nation for 2008-09.

The schedule of classes for 2009 IHSA Nationals was similar to the one used from 2004 through 2007. The schedule called for opening day, April 23rd, to be all hunter seat. Then on April 24th the day would start out hunter seat, then alternate between english classes and western classes. On April 25th there would be four hunter seat classes to start the day, with the rest all being western. There would also be several awards presentations that day. The final day of Nationals, April 26th, would be all western and would include for the first time under a four-day format the Reining phase of the individual AQHA.

The very first western riders to participate at 2009 Nationals were the individual AQHA qualifiers who were part of the first heat of western horsemanship. Essentially the fifth class of the day on April 24th, Cashman, Nagel, Howland, Heller, Jones, Douglass, Ceddia, Franck, Rincon, Gfroerer and Gibson made up the first section, with each asked to walk, jog, lope and eventually line up and attempt the pattern. All eleven riders were then excused. Following the second section of the Cacchione Cup flat phase the remaining eleven riders returned for the second section of open western horsemanship. This section was run exactly like the first, and eventually this group was also excused. Within two hours the rail scores were posted at one end of the Miller Coliseum. At the halfway point Nagel was the surprise leader, Kralovansky second, Morehead third, Ceddia fourth, Frank fifth, Peyton sixth, Gfroerer seventh, Peterson eighth, Gibson ninth and Douglass tenth.

Unlike the past five IHSA Nationals, the Reining Phase of the Individual AQHA Trophy was not the final class of the Saturday session, meaning that for the first time since 2003 the winner would be unknown until sometime during the Sunday session. The Reining Phase was instead the third class out of six held on Sunday the 26th. Also unlike the past five Nationals the combined scores of Judges Debra Jones Wright and Allen Mitchels would not be announced following each ride in the reining division, making the final results for the Individual AQHA much harder to guess at (The combined judge's scores were not announced for the alumni reining, individual open reining or team open reining as well. It was never made clear as to why these scores were not announced - Editor). One by one each of the 22 riders performed the reining pattern the best that they could.

She won the Individual AQHA Trophy in 2008, but in 2009 University of Findlay sophomore Katie Morehead (center) finished second in the division. However Morehead would win a pair of western horsemanship divisions at Nationals, with the team open western blue ribbon clinching the '09 National Championship for the Oilers. From left to right are Brian Bendele from the AQHA, Coach Clark Bradley, Head Coach Cindy Morehead (also known as Katie's Mom), Katie Morehead, Coach Jake Bowman, LuAnn Ulrich from the AQHA and IHSA Founder and Executive Director Bob Cacchione.

Finally announcer Justin Ochs asked each of the 22 riders to return to the ring for the awards. Tenth place went to Peterson. From Rochester, Minnesota the Golden Eagles freshman had faired much better in the rail phase, placing eighth with a '36' score compared to thirteenth with a '6' in reining. By contrast Craft moved up into the top ten based on her reining ride. After having been eleventh in the rail the senior from Butler, Missouri was seventh in reining, averaging out to ninth. Douglass improved to eighth. The junior from Bradenton, Florida was sixth in reining, improving radically from her lower half reining score in the division a year earlier. Peyton had the exact same averages but in reverse. One of three top ten finishers from the state of Ohio (from Columbus), Peyton was sixth in rail and tenth in reining. The tiebreaker went her way and thus the Wildcat was seventh. Gfroerer had been seventh through the rail, and the senior from Ronan, Minnesota was nearly as good in reining, placing eighth. However when the scores were combined Gfroerer's average was superior to seventh or eighth, averaging out to sixth nationally.

Franck had been fifth entering the day, and managed the fourth best reining score. However the overall placing for Franck remained fifth due to the averages of the riders Ochs had yet to announce. Fourth went to Kralovansky, who followed up her second in the rail with a fifth in reining. The Sheridan, Indiana resident was one of ten in the division who did not start their IHSA career in the open level. Ceddia was one of the riders who did start out at the open level, and the senior from Sunbury, Ohio (the same town that hosted 2005 IHSA Nationals at Eden Park) earned the second best reining score as it turned out. This gave Ceddia third place overall when his fourth in the rail phase was factored in.

Considering how dominant she had been over one-and-a-half IHSA Nationals up to this point, some were surprised when Morehead was announced as the reserve champion. The sophomore from Findlay, Ohio (one of several riders at 2009 Nationals who goes to school in the same town where they grew up) had the top reining score, which meant that Morehead was involved in her second tiebreaker in as many days. On April 25th there had been a tie for fourth in the individual open reining, and because the top four in that division advance to the NRHA's Derby in Oklahoma City a rare western ride-off took place, which Morehead won. This time the rider who was first in rail and third in reining came out on top. From Ransomville, New York, Nagel became only the second rider ever from a school located in the state of New York to win the Individual AQHA Trophy. When asked who her trainers are, Nagel said that Oswego Head Coaches Dan and Jill Bergstresser are it! Like Morehead, who trained with her Mother Cindy Morehead growing up, the Bergstressers apparently knew Nagel before she went to college. With Nagel attending a Zone 2, Region 2 school, this meant that pending the outcome of the western team competition a Zone 2 school produced the top Western Open Rider, the top Hunter Seat Open Rider (Lindsay Clark of Centenary College in Zone 2, Region 1 won the Cacchione Cup) and the top Hunter Seat School (also Centenary) at 2009 Nationals. This marks the first time Zone 2 has ever managed more than two of the top four prizes at any one IHSA National show, an important statistic in that the IHSA was originally made up of schools in this geographic area (in their pre-western days).

"Rusty" stretches out in front of a Tex Tan Saddle won by S.U.N.Y. - Oswego sophomore Jennifer Nagel (center, holding blue ribbon). Nagel won the saddle and several trophies for placing first at 2009 IHSA Nationals in the Individual AQHA Trophy division. Nagel is only the third rider in IHSA history to attend school east of the Ohio/Pennsylvania border and north of the Potomic river to win the individual AQHA. Nagel's trainers are Jill (to Nagel's right) and Dan (to Nagel's left) Bergstresser, who coach S.U.N.Y. - Oswego and who also taught Rusty everything he knows!

Nagel's win snapped Findlay's four-year win streak in the division, which had been the longest such run for any school since the Individual AQHA Trophy was first awarded in 1982. For the decade Zone 7 claimed four championships (three by Quincy Cahill of Texas A & M, the other by Kristin Dickerson of Oklahoma State, neither program of which still competes in the IHSA), Zone 6 four (all Findlay: Jake Bowman in '05, Travis Womer in '06, Trevor Dare in '07 and Morehead last season), Zone 5 one (Sarah Elder of Middle Tennessee State, who dominated more than just the individual AQHA division at '03 Nationals which were also in Murfreesboro) and Zone 2 one via Nagel. 19 different programs can now claim at least one winner in the individual AQHA, though only ten of those programs currently field an IHSA Western Team.

The mysterious 23rd Western Region: Over the March 21st/22nd weekend we thought something odd was up when the University of Massachusetts was supposedly earning team points at the Semifinal show in Findlay, Ohio. We at Campus Equestrian had stated that Zone 1 was the only Zone within the IHSA that did not hold western competitions of any kind. However during the 2008-09 regular season a region was formed in Western Massachusetts, which included not only schools from Zone 1, Region 3 but also at least one school from Zone 1, Region 1. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst produced the top team in this region and thus advanced directly to the Findlay semifinal where they placed eight with five points (We regret that Campus Equestrian does not have any regular season statistical information from this new region - Editor). This story serves as a heads-up that Western has now spread to all nine Zones and one can even expect to see a rider from one of the New England schools in the Individual AQHA Trophy division starting next May in Lexington.

---Steve Maxwell

Explaination of Western Scoring: Following the conclusion of the AQHA trophy competition, scores for each rider were posted at one end of the Tennessee Miller Coliseum. The top score a rider can receive in either phase of Individual AQHA Trophy division is "120." Second would be "105," third "91," fourth "78," fifth "66," sixth "55," seventh "45," eighth "36," ninth "28," tenth "21," eleventh "15," twelfth "10," thirteenth "6," fourteenth "3," and fifteenth "1." Riders who placed sixteenth or below receive a "0" score for that phase. We list the Rail score followed by the Reining score and finally the Combined score. Though no judge's scores were announced over the loudspeakers, it is likely that several riders who received zeros in one division or another probably received a numeric score before the official AQHA conversion to 120, 105, 91, etc. was used. The Rail phase took place on Friday, April 24th while the Reining Phase took place on Sunday, April 26th. The judges for all Western divisions held during 2009 IHSA Nationals in Murfreesboro, Tennessee were Debra Jones Wright and Allen Mitchels.


1. Jennifer Nagel, State University of New York at Oswego - 120/91 = 211

2. Katie Morehead, University of Findlay - 91/120 = 211

3. Keith Ceddia, Ohio State University - 78/105 = 183

4. Allison Kralovansky, St. Mary of the Woods College - 105/66 = 171

5. Errolynne Franck, West Texas A & M University - 66/78 = 144

6. Kristen Gfroerer, University of Montana Western - 45/36 = 81

7. Molly Peyton, University of Kentucky - 55/21 = 76

8. Katie Douglass, Florida State University - 21/55 = 76

9. Valerie Craft, Missouri State University - 15/45 = 60

10. Amanda Peterson, University of Minnesota at Crookston - 36/6 = 42

11. Sara Gibson, Oregon State University - 28/1 = 29

12. Catherine Howland, Morrisville State College - 0/28 = 28

13. Lisa Rincon, Stanford University - 3/15 = 18

14. Catie Pabst, Cal Poly - Pomona - 10/0 = 10

15. Allie Jones, Berry College - 0/10 = 10

16. Bernadette Loomis, Washington College - 6/0 = 6

17. Tricia Marheine, Albion College - 0/3 = 3

18. Mindy Leach, University of Nebraska at Lincoln - 1/0 = 1

Callie Edie, Murray State University - 0/0 = 0

Randi Cashman, Centenary College - 0/0 = 0

Justin Eddins, Martin Community College - 0/0 = 0

Katie Heller, Bloomsburg University - 0/0 = 0


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