Riders from Zone 2 swept the team gold medals in Children's (1.10/1.15m), Adult Amateur (1.10/1.15m), and the combined 1.20/1.25m and 1.30/1.35m Junior/Amateur sections at the USHJA Zone 1 & 2 Jumper Team Championships on Saturday, September 23, at Princeton Show Jumping Fall I in Princeton, N.J.
The 1.10/1.15m Children's section included five teams and saw a gold medal day for Zone 2 Team 3 composed of Olivia Broder (Saint James, N.Y.), Kelly McInerney (Randolph, N.J.), Gigi Moynihan (Oldwick, N.J.), and Phoebe Topping (Sagaponack, N.Y.). Team 3 finished the day on only four faults with Zone 1 finishing just shy of the win with eight faults for the silver medal. The Zone 1 team included Sydney Berube (Bedford, N.H.), Tessa P. Brown (West Hartford, Conn.), Josselyn Mersereau (Concord, Mass.), and Adelaide Toensing, (Charlotte, Vt.). Zone 2 also picked up the bronze medal with Team 2 joining the podium with riders Paige Agrawal, (Dix Hills, N.Y.), Alexis C. Di Pasqua, (West Chester, Pa.), Gabrielle Freund, (Manorville, N.Y.), and Jayna Suoninen (Holmdel, N.J.).
During the Championships, Zone 2 was led by Chef d'Equipe James Benedetto of Northport, N.Y., while Zone 1 competed under the leadership of Kristi Smith of Madison, Conn.
"I think the format of these Championships is great," said Benedetto. "It is a great place for young kids to learn. The biggest fear we have as a country is to have a rider's first time representing the U.S. as a team member be in the Olympic Games or some other major international competition. These Championships are a perfect way for young riders to really get comfortable and to experience this.
"I love to see the riders come together with excitement on their faces," continued Benedetto, who has experience representing the U.S. internationally himself. "To be honest, I get more nervous for them than I ever did when I competed."
In the 1.10/1.15m Adult Amateur section, Zone 2 came out on top again with a fault-free victory for Team 3, which included Kimberly Beattie (Mahwah, N.J.), Sheila Ann Sadighi (Essex Fells, N.J.), Leslie Schillat (Malvern, Pa.), and Barbara Rochford. (Ringoes, N.J.). The silver medal was presented to Zone 1, including Haley Cassidy (Mystic, Conn.), Kimberly LaCroix (New Boston, N.H.), Emily Schnebel (Goffstown, N.H.), and Wendy Wood (South Hamilton, Mass.). Rounding out the podium placings, Zone 2 Team 2 took the bronze medal for riders Maria Bogdanova-Peifer (Oley, Pa.), Stephanie Dixon (Hamilton, N.J.), Marissa Fogal (Pottstown, Pa.), and Kendra Sue Walmer (Reinholds, Pa.).
The 1.20/1.25m and 1.30/1.35m heights were combined for the Championship and welcomed four teams with Team 3 taking the gold medal. Finishing on eight faults, the gold medal-winning team was a combined Zone 1 and 2 team composed of Jaime Auletto (Tabernacle, N.J.), Alexandra Carlton (Madison, Conn.), Devon Shaw (Columbus, N.J.), and Jenny Swanson (Dover, Mass.). Joining them on the podium, Team 1 took silver for riders Gracie Allen (Moorestown, N.J.), Lauren Lindner (Warren, N.J.), Shannon Popp (Valatie, N.Y.), and Caitlyn Sheffer (Seven Valleys, Pa.). After a jump-off for the bronze medal, Team 4, a combined Zone 1 and 2 team, including Samantha Johnson (Skillman, N.J.), Kayla Ryan (New York, N.Y.), Sydney Smith (Madison, Conn.), and Emma Weiss (New York, N.Y.) made their way onto the podium.
"I loved the courses," said Kristi Smith of the tracks designed by Germany's Olaf Petersen, Jr. "They were not too much, but definitely challenging enough, and it got a little harder to ride the course as the jumps got bigger, which was perfect.
"I have watched these championships before and, to me, it looked like this year a lot of the riders were much more prepared than in past years," continued Smith. "They seemed comfortable, capable, and it was a great day of competition with more to come tomorrow."
This year is the first time the USHJA Zones 1 & 2 Jumper Team Championships were hosted by Princeton Show Jumping, managed by Andrew Philbrick. But, according to Benedetto, the location is a perfect fit.
"Andrew does a wonderful job and has invested a lot of time, effort, and money into this property," he said. "The footing is phenomenal, the facility is lovely, and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from people who are here for the first time."
Riders will jump for individual honors on Sunday, September 24, during the fourth and final round of the Individual Championships. All Individual medalists will be named Gold Star Emerging Jumper Riders and be invited to a Gold Star Clinic early next year. Individual Champions will also receive an EQUO Sun Shirt, the Official Sun Shirt of the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships, a pair of Professional's Choice Pro Performance boots, a cooler, a ribbon, and agold medal.