Penn State’s Brendan Weiss won both the first class and the last class of the 2012 Holiday Tournament of Champions, December 8 at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. His first win was in Open Fences, and it put his team into a lead that they never relinquished. His final win made him the Tournament of Champions Medal winner, capping a remarkably successful day for the Penn State team.
In between Weiss’ two wins, there were exceptional rides from nearly the whole team – in schedule order: blue ribbon from Haleigh Boswell in Novice Flat; red ribbon for Brendan Weiss in the Open Flat; blue for Jessica Mitchell in Walk Trot; red for Maddy Fass in Intermediate Flat; and a blue ribbon in Novice Fences for Samantha Frable.
Virginia Intermont made a run at Penn State for awhile, as did Delaware Valley, but halfway through the day it was pretty evident that everyone else was scrambling for a Reserve Champion ribbon. That red ribbon ended up in the hands of SCAD Coach Ashley Kelly. Savannah College of Art and Design had two firsts and a second late in the day to climb from the back of the pack to pass many of the old standards and claim the Reserve Champion prize with 30 points. Two points back was Virginia Intermont, followed by Del Val and Bridgewater – along with Mount Holyoke, any one of those would have been a good bet to win. Penn State and SCAD would have gone off at higher odds, although both placed in the top seven at IHSA Nationals last spring, and Penn State beat Del Val at Zone 3 Finals last year.
Mount Holyoke was one of the surprises of the day. Always one of the top Tournament teams – 2011-12 Series Champs, and having won the Preseason Classic back in September, after placing 4th at Nationals last year, they would have been the favorite to win it all. But then the show began… star open rider, Lexie Lohrer in Class 1, came in crooked and bulging to jump number 4 and stopped! It shook the Holyoke tree, and after a couple more goose eggs, Holyoke found themselves halfway finished and with only 4 points. It was too much to recover, and they finished out of the ribbons for the first time in recent memory. Coach CJ Law will rally the troops and make a comeback in the Winter Classic, and they still have a good shot at retaining the Series Champion trophy, with one more chance to add to their 42 point winning performance Goucher in September.
Three pleasant surprises were the trio of Sacred Heart, Ohio University, and Otterbein – the 6th, 7th, and 8th Place teams, respectively. This is Sacred Heart’s highest placing ever in a national level event, having won their region and made their Tournament debut last year. Ohio U breaks into the Tournament ribbons occasionally, and still train with the same coach who won the IHSA National Championship with Ohio U in 2002, but they are chasing Otterbein in the regional standings this year. Otterbein has not won the Regional Championship since the 1980’s, but they’ve won 5 of 6 IHSA shows this fall, and hold a substantial lead over perennial leader, Miami of Ohio. The one show Otterbein failed to win this year?… Ohio State won it.
If there was one distinguishing feature of this Tournament of Champions, it was the success of BOYS! The top three riders in the Tournament Medal class were Penn State’s Brendan Weiss, Blake Roberts of Virginia Intermont, and Doug Masters, riding for the University of Kentucky. I will go out on a limb and say this is an absolute first time in collegiate riding that a national level championship has been led by three men. Masters went into the final test in the lead, but couldn’t hold on and dropped to 3rd place after a bobbled jump. Blake’s Virginia Intermont teammate, Danielle Clark, tested in 4th place and finished in 4th place. Mount Holyoke’s September 2012 Tournament Medal Champion Lexie Lohrer finished 8th. Del Val’s Ciara Menkens, twice before Medal Champion, failed to make the finals, despite having won the Open Flat class. Four classes were won by boys, including Weiss and Roberts winning both sections of Open Fences, Ohio U’s Justin Martin winning the Walk Trot, and then the boy-sweep of the Medal class.
The ETS Medal featured three top high school riders who were well known to college coaches from their previous Tournament of Champions performances. In the Fall of 2011, the last time Tournament was at Otterbein, Rachel McConnell of Powell, Ohio had won the ETS Medal. Mollie Kowalchik had placed 2nd behind McConnell, and Maddie Davis took 3rd place in that Medal class. This time around, Mollie Kowalchik came out the big winner, with her IEA teammate, Maddie Davis, in Reserve Champion. Both ride on the Beckett Run IEA team with Coach Jim Arrigon. Kowalchik, a junior at Loveland High School in the Cincinnati area, is the third Kowalchik sister to ride for Beckett Run – middle sister, Emily, is the Team Captain for Cornell, and oldest sister Melissa rode in NCAA for Southern Methodist University. Maddie Davis is just a sophomore. Kowalchik won a $5000 Scholarship to Virginia Intermont College, one of three they will award this season at Tournament of Champions.
The judge for the December 8 event was George “Skip” Thornbury, USEF Large R judge from Cincinnati area. As a USEF “R” he judges extensively, including the Winter Equestrian Festival, Devon, Winter Classic in Gulfport, Washington International, and innumerable IHSA shows. Skip judged the 2012 IEA Nationals. He sits on the Board of both USHJA and USEF, is Treasurer of USHJA, and was President of Ohio Hunter Jumper Association for 20 years. He was looking for a workmanlike, functional, classically styled rider who would ride the horse forward down the lines.
Weather for the event was unseasonably warm, with a high around 60 degrees by the end of the show, and rain. Ohio is in the “grey” season, which begins about November and lasts till spring. Otterbein’s Knowlton Equestrian Center is a fabulous facility, and made a comfortable home for the 21st Annual Holiday Tournament.
Following the Holiday Tournament, the final installment of the Tournament of Champions season will be the Winter Classic, to be hosted January 26, 2013 by Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia. The Series Championship will be awarded at that show. Series point standings are below, and are tabulated from the two best scores of the three-show series.
Upcoming Equestrian Talent Search events will be January 12-13 at Mount Holyoke College, and April 13-14 at Bridgewater College in central Virginia, followed by summer events at Randolph College in Virginia, and others. Readers can find new dates and latest information on the Equestrian Talent Search facebook page.
Otterbein was hosting the Tournament for the second time. Centenary College in New Jersey has hosted the Tournament most often, – 5 times – and will host Holiday Tournament again in 2013. The host of the first Tournament of Champions show was Lake Erie College in Ohio. Tournament Producer and IHSA National Secretary Jim Arrigon said the impetus for Tournament came when he coached the Miami of Ohio team in the 1990’s. “We would win the region easily each year, and then get totally embarrassed at Nationals… The Midwest was SO far behind the east coast in the quality of competition, but we created our own competition through the Tournament. The first Tournament included about a dozen teams – the top Midwestern teams like Miami, Purdue, Lake Erie, Findlay, but also eastern teams who were willing to make the trip… teams like Virginia Intermont, Penn State, and Mount Holyoke.
“It worked! The quality of the Midwestern teams increased drastically quickly, to the point that Miami, Findlay, Lake Erie, Purdue, and all found high placings at Nationals within a few short years. Ohio University even won National Champions team! I think Tournament of Champions can claim some credit for increasing competitiveness in collegiate riding! “
Results from the Holiday Tournament of Champions follow. Photos attached: credit Noelle Davis, Troy Ohio. More photos and complete results available upon request.
For information about Tournament of Champions or Equestrian Talent Search, contact IHSA National Secretary Jim Arrigon at email@example.com
Photo file attached. Champion Team – Penn State, in their trophy “Snuggies” – L to R: Samantha Frable, Lauren Powers, Jessica Mitchell, Jessica Hanlon, Brendan Weiss, Allison Healy, Haleigh Boswell, Madeline Fass, and Coach Malinda Grice.
Champion: Penn State University 38 points
Res. Champ: Savannah College of Art and Design 30
3rd Virginia Intermont College 28
4th Delaware Valley College 26
5th Bridgewater College 25
6th Sacred Heart University 24
7th Ohio University 23
8th Otterbein University 21
Boston University 20
Virginia Tech 18
Mount Holyoke 16
Otterbein “B team” 15
University of Connecticut 12
University of Delaware 12
University of Kentucky 12
Ohio State 11
St. Mary-of-the-Woods 5
West Virginia 3
T of C Medal Results
Champion Brendan Weiss, Penn State
Res.Champ Blake Roberts, Virginia Intermont
3rd Doug Masters, Kentucky
4th Danielle Clark, Virginia Intermont
5th Devin Walthers, SCAD
6th Jessica Ropelewski, Virginia Tech
7th Lily Zarella, Boston U
8th Allison O’Neill, Mount Holyoke
9th Katie Gray, Sacred Heart
10th Lexie Lohrer, Mount Holyoke
ETS Medal Champion Mollie Kowalchik (second from left) of Loveland, Ohio, with IEA coaches Jim and Gwen Arrigon (who also happen to be the producers of the Tournament of Champions Series), and her IEA teammate Maddie Davis of Troy, Ohio – Reserve Champion in the ETS Medal.
ETS Medal Results
Champion: Mollie Kowalchik, Loveland OH
Res. Champ: Maddie Davis, Troy, Ohio
3rd Savanna Hajdasz, Amston CT
4th Jessica Pierce, Strongsville OH
5th Olivia Sehlhorst, Troy OH
6th Justice Ramsey, Oxford OH
2012-2013 Tournament of Champions Series Leaders
(best two scores from three-show series)
Virginia Intermont 67 points
Delaware Valley 58
Mount Holyoke 58
Penn State 38
Sacred Heart 24
St Andrews 23
Boston U 20