MHC Equestrian Team Wins National Championship

Equestrian5 bwMount Holyoke's Miller's Collegiate Cup championship team. (Left to right) show organizer Jon Conyers, MHC coach C.J. Law, assistant coach Joy Wiezbicki-Collins '91, Julie MacKay '03, Jesse Quillian '01, Elisa Panetta Villareal '03, Jessica "Jess" Webb '02, Kathyrn "Katy" Matteson '03, Rachel "Kasin" Anton '03, judge R. Scot Evans, and Bob Cacchione. Not pictured is Lauren Morlock '03. (Left to right) Villareal's brother, coach Law, Villareal's mother, and Bob Cacchione.

Mount Holyoke 's equestrian team bested fourteen top riding teams last weekend to win the Miller's Collegiate Cup, the country's most prestigious championship for college equestrian teams, at the annual Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) national show in Conyers, Georgia. In a race that was neck-and-neck until the finish, the MHC team defeated closely trailing Hollins University, winning the coveted Miller's Cup with a score of twenty-nine points and receiving two top scores. ESPN will air coverage of the show May 31.

The fiercely competitive championship includes eight events. On Friday, May 12, the MHC team began the competition with two strong rides. Jesse Quillian '01 took second place in the Intermediate Fences event, and Lauren Morlock '03 took third place in Open Over Fences. A battle then ensued among the MHC team, Virginia Intermont College, and Hollins-- with the threesome jockeying for first and second place throughout the day. The turning point on Friday came when Jessica Webb '02 won the Novice Flat event, giving MHC an edge.
During the next day of competition, the MHC team started off with a bump, when its first rider was eliminated because of a difficult mount (riders are assigned mounts at random). Noting that a Skidmore rider had obtained a reride, Coach C.J. Law pushed for the same--winning a reride for the MHC rider that resulted in two crucial points. When Elisa Panetta Villareal '03 drew another difficult mount for the Walk-Trot event, Coach Law was worried. Nonplussed by her horse, however, Panetta Villareal rode to first place in the event.
After an excellent performance at the regional level, select members of the Mount Holyoke team went on to the New England zone competition, a qualifying event for the national show. Based on performances at the "zones," two teams from each of eight geographic zones were selected to compete at the national show. Coach C.J. Law notes that this year's victory was a team win for Mount Holyoke. "All thirty-seven riders made this championship possible. Winning the Miller's Cup means first competing well at the regional level, and our team did just that this spring."
Seven MHC riders rode in the Miller's Cup's eight events. Each MHC rider competed in a single event (with the exception of Quillian, who competed in two) and was evaluated by two judges, who assigned points for the ride. Mount Holyoke's Miller Cup riders were: Elisa Panetta Villareal '03 (Walk-Trot event); Julie MacKay '03, (Walk-Trot-Canter event); Jessica "Jess" Webb '02 (Novice Flat event); Jesse Quillian '01 (Intermediate Flat and Intermediate Fences events); Rachel "Kasin" Anton '03, (Open Flat event); Kathyrn "Katy" Matteson '03 (Novice Fences event); and Lauren Morlock '03 (Open Fences event). Webb and Panetta Villareal placed first in their events, winning individual Miller's championships. Cheering the MHC riders on at the Miller's Cup competition were sixteen teammates and a contingent of family members.
Mount Holyoke's equestrian team last won the Miller's Cup in 1986. The team frequently places second, third, or fourth in the cup competition and hosted the IHSA national show at the College's equestrian center in 1997. The equestrian team's coaches are C.J. Law and Joy Wiezbicki-Collins '91, who won a competition within the IHSA's national show's Alumni Equitation Division in 1995. Collins, the assistant riding coach, filled in for Law this fall while the coach was on leave. Web images of the MHC team are available online at DIV>

Equestrian1 bwJessica Webb '02, Miller's Novice Flat Champion


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Elisa Panetta Villareal '03, Miller's Walk Trot Champion.
Photographs by Al Cook