Sweet Briar director of riding Mimi Wroten was named Old Dominion Athletic Conference Coach of the Year on the same day her program claimed its second ODAC title since winning the conference’s inaugural riding championship 25 years ago.
The Vixens won two of three rounds of competition in the 2012 ODAC Equestrian Championships on Friday, April 6, enough to eclipse Hollins University by one point. The show was held at the Randolph Riding Center in Lynchburg.
Wroten said a strong group of riders and a quality string of horses were key to winning the championship, which she compares to NCAA-type team equestrian competitions. Unlike Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competitions, where riders of all levels show, ODAC is set up to be the “best against the best.”
The Vixens accumulated 238.25 points in the first equitation over fences judging on Course A, led by an 86.5 combined judges’ (two judges) score from Ali Davidson ’13. Lauren Perhala ’12 (76.5) and Kathryne Richard ’15 (75.25) also scored for the Vixens.
Finishing first earned Sweet Briar seven points toward the final team standings (five are awarded for second, and four, three, two and one are given through sixth place). The second fences competition, over Course B, went to Hollins. HU’s Emma Lane Poole led her horse to an 86-point average, and was joined by Sarah Jarosinski (79.5) and Meredith McDonnell (77.875) in accounting for Hollins’ 243.375 team total.
Sweet Briar stumbled in the second equitation over fences class, finishing fifth as a team, but came back in the third class, equitation on the flat. They posted 161.5 points fueled by strong rides by Davidson and Olivia Smith ’14. The extra seven points for first place gave them just enough to overcome Hollins.
Wroten says “never give up” is part of the program ethic, and her riders know it. “We plan for the best, but when things don’t go as planned, it is all about recovery and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Sometimes that means the coach has to change things up. The rules call for choosing riders for the flat class before the day’s competition gets under way. With her riders locked in, Wroten had no doubts about Davidson after the over fences classes. She and Sweet Briar’s Chase N’ Gold had been steady all day. But Smith’s horse, Time Will Tell, wasn’t himself.
“When Olivia’s horse was overly anxious and not his typical self in the first over fences class, I decided we needed to put her on one of our other horses,” Wroten said. “This decision and Olivia’s ability to ‘catch ride’ a strange horse helped us attain this championship.”
Finishing behind Sweet Briar and Hollins in the final team standings, in order, were Randolph College, Lynchburg College, Washington and Lee University and Bridgewater College.
Sweet Briar’s Davidson also was named to the all-ODAC riding team.
Wroten says it wasn’t just those in the ring whose hard work deserves recognition for earning the title.
“The win was an all around group effort from those in the saddle to those behind the scenes. I am proud to have coached this team and with this win we have all attained a major goal for the Sweet Briar riding program.”
Note: This article was adapted from the original version, published April 6, 2012, by the Old Dominion Athletic Association.
Contact: Jennifer McManamay