Against 21 high schools from around the U.S., the four-member high school team from Middle Georgia Equestrian Team finished 12th in the nation.
After three days of competition at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association’s Hunt Seat Finals, the four riders battled heat and unfamiliar horses to pull together to take home some ribbons. The team consisting of Caleigh Cianci, Alisa Siebenmorgan, Anna Lynn McNeal and Mary Madison Randolph, range in age from freshman to senior.
Based out of Byron at Pleasant Oaks Equestrian Center, the team was one of 179 in the competition, according to McKenzie Yakes, communications coordinator for the IEA. More than 1,100 teams in 36 states compete in IEA.
The national competition travels from venue to venue. Last year it was in Boston while this year it was held at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“We are thrilled to be coming here. We want to get the riders exposed to all the great venues around the country,” said IEA executive director Roxanne Lawrence.
The event was also broadcast online.
That put the pressure squarely on the young girls’ shoulders.
Caleigh Cianci, who swept the Zone 4 Varsity Open Equitation division winning three out of four classes, faced stiff competition and finished seventh individually on the flat. Because she was the highest placed senior in her class, Cianci receives a $1,000 scholarship.
Siebenmorgan, who attends Mount de Sales Academy, placed fifth in the Junior Varsity Novice Equitation Crossrail division. The pink ribbon put two points on the board for her team.
Points are accumulated from first to sixth place. First place receives seven points, second is five all the way to sixth, which is worth one point.
Cianci and McNeal, a ninth-grader at Covenant Academy, didn’t place in their respective divisions during the team classes.
Randolph, a freshman at Stratford Academy, was the last to go for the Byron-based team when she rode in the Varsity Intermediate Equitation on the Flat class.
“I try to do everything I can not to be nervous,” she said. She focuses on just breathing while she is being judged in the ring but she realized her grandparents were watching in the stands and family members were also watching on the Internet.
In her class, she placed third, earning four points for her team and a yellow ribbon.
“I am just very thankful to get to go to nationals as a freshman. I’m very happy with my ribbon,” Randolph said.
The team is coached by Jennifer Mastronardi, who has had a rider qualify individually for nationals in each year she has fielded an IEA team. This year was the first year she sent a team of riders to the finals.
“They all rode amazing, and I could not be any more proud of how hard all of them tried,” Mastronardi said.
Front Range Equestrian Team out of Parker, Colorado, took home the championship trophy for the high school teams.