April 28, 2008 -- Mount Holyoke College took first place in the 7th annual National Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) team competition April 26 at the Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center in South Hadley, Mass. In a closely contested day of competition between 12 teams from as far away as Florida and California, Mount Holyoke triumphed with a final score of 36 over University of Massachusetts, reserve champion, with 34 points. University of Florida took third place honors with 29 points, ahead of University of New Hampshire, finishing fourth with 28.
The victory was especially sweet for Mount Holyoke because they regained national champion status after three years of narrow misses. Mount Holyoke won the first three nationals, from 2002 to 2004.
Mount Holyoke team captain Asheley Ireland, from Westbrook, Maine, who took fifth place in First Level division, was thrilled with her team's accomplishment. "Even though only four of us could ride on the nationals team, the whole team worked so hard. I was confident going into this because we trained so hard for it," she said.
Mount Holyoke coach Rebecca Schurink was grateful for all the help the team received: "I believe that the outpouring of support from the entire team, their families and the equestrian center staff helped strengthen all of us so we could excel at such an important competition." Schurink also expressed her appreciation for the Equestrian Centers horses and those who were lent to compete in the event. "One of our most important ingredients for success in making talented, sensitive, thinking riders is having such wonderful horses," she said.
Riding for the Mount Holyoke team were Asheley Ireland at First Level (fifth place), Caitlin Calder at Upper Training (fourth place), Janne Matzner-Gore at Lower Training (seventh place), and Emme Johnston in Introductory division (first place).
University of Florida's Katie Hennemann, who took top honors in the First Level division, was high point rider. Mount Holyoke's Emme Johnston, winner of the Introductory division, was reserve high point rider.
The Mount Holyoke team was awarded the new team championship trophy, donated by IDA president Beth Beukema. The winning riders and coach also won new dressage saddles donated for the event by JPC Equestrian, one of the event's primary sponsors.
Other teams competing came from Albion College in Michigan, California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo, Averett University and reigning national champion Virginia Intermont College from Virginia, Centenary College from New Jersey, Otterbein College and University of Findlay from Ohio, and Washington State University.
Individual riders from 21 colleges and universities competed April 27. Alison Wilaby from University of Kentucky took first place in the First Level division over Halley Sissom from Albion College in second. In the Upper Training division, Wanda Gortner of Virginia Intermont placed first, ahead of University of New Hampshire's Kim Guyer in second. In Lower Training, Jessica Forend from Johnson & Wales University took first place ahead of second-place Erin Molthen from Averett University. In the Introductory division, Krista Hayes from Virginia Intermont College placed first over Laura Coburn from University of Massachusetts in second.