2012 IHSA Championships: The Pinnacle of a College Career
Fairfield, CT -- May 10, 2012 by L.A. Pomeroy -- Never before in its 39-year history had an Intercollege Horse Show Associate hunter seat team coach won two IHSA National Championships for two different colleges or universities.
But that was before Mary Drueding.
Drueding, already selected by the IHSA nominating committee to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award, demonstrated an irrefutable argument in defense of her coaching excellence and expertise as her St. Lawrence University Saints hunter seat team clinched the IHSA Collegiate Cup during the 2012 National Championships, May 3-6, at the Hunt Horse Arena of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
Hunter Seat Results
In 1989, while assistant coach for her alma mater, Drueding ('83) and Colby-Sawyer College made their first IHSA National Championship appearance. In 1991 she was made head coach and, three years later, under judge George Morris (one of Drueding's personal heroes) Colby-Sawyer again had the IHSA National Championship-winning team. Drueding was inducted into the Colby-Sawyer Hall of Fame in 2007.
"This has been a totally exciting day," she said. "I have a great school behind me and it was easy to put together a good group of riders. At St. Lawrence, we have a small -- twenty-five riders -- team that commits itself to the sport year and sacrifices to advance the greater good of college horsemanship. I am very lucky that St. Lawrence recognizes that."
As for comparing this St. Lawrence victory to her wins with Colby-Sawyer, Drueding joked, "We have been so close, so many times, that we call ourselves ‘The few, the proud, the second!' This is truly exciting. We held onto the strong momentum we established on the first day, and just kept drawing lucky ducks. I am so proud to say our riders ribboned in every class." The Saints, who began their march on opening day, Thursday, with a Collegiate Cup-qualifying win in Novice Hunter Seat Equitation by Katherine Figueroa, were reserve team champions in 2011, 2008 and 2001, and six-time Top 10 finalists. Prior to Drueding joining as coach in 1995, St. Lawrence had not won an IHSA hunter seat team title -- then known as the Cartier Cup -- since the 1970s, when they were three-time (1973, 1975, 1977) champions.
"More rewarding than any title is seeing a rider read a horse and work with it. I enjoy facilitating that learning process more than any award I might win for myself," Drueding added, epitomizing the qualities of modesty and accomplishment that have made her, as hunter seat horse coordinator Eddie Federwisch (Virginia Intermont College) quipped, a "Lifetimer."
"I am so pleased for Mary," said Skidmore College Thoroughbreds coach, Cindy Ford, whose hunter seat team are IHSA Collegiate Cup reserve national champions for a second consecutive year. "Mary and I shared reserve last year. She's such a good horsewoman, with such an amazing sense of humor, and such extraordinary skill, I am happy to be reserve to her. She is so deserving of this achievement."
Hunter seat judges Chrystine Tauber and R. Scot Evans praised the overall caliber demonstrated throughout the classes: "We were very impressed with the quality of riding and horses, and kept reminding ourselves these were not riders on their own horses."
"There was a clear emphasis," said Evans, "on the horses. It is so well worth it to bring quality horses to an event like this. It felt like every rider could get a great draw."
Tauber agreed: "We gave high scores to some beautiful rides and strong horsemanship. These classes are real tests of riding. There has been consistency in the performances and very few re-rides."
For the USEF/Cacchione Cup, Tauber and Evans called back three finalists -- Claire Margolis (Stanford University), Kelly Campbell (Skidmore College) and Kels Bonham (Savannah College of Art and Design). It was Bonham's second and - as a graduating senior -- last try at the Cup after having finished reserve in 2010. Margolis, a freshman, was making her first appearance for a national title.
"Claire is a kind, hardworking girl," said Stanford coach, Vanessa Bartsch. "I was thrilled that this little freshman from California, who has never ridden in a national medal final because she didn't have the funds to do so, could come in and score an eighty-eight, one of the highest scores of the weekend, and continue to hold up under the pressure."
The California rider's cool confidence earned her third in the nation in the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup, while the title and reserve boiled down to Campbell on Centenary College's bay, King, and Bonham, on a Virginia Intermont chestnut named Sampson.
And like the heroic feats of its namesake, Bonham and Sampson emerged victorious from their last trip before the judges, clinching the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup with a total of 253 points. Campbell and King earned reserve with a final 242.5 score.
"I loved my horse," said Bonham. "I prefer one that performs a little more forward and he was really nice."
"You had to work hard. It wasn't easy and you did a good job," Evans and Tauber told Bonham after the presentation of her trophy.
"She's stayed open to learning," said SCAD coaches, Andrea Welles and Ashley Kelly. "She can ride many different horses and be super on all of them." They also credited Bonham, as SCAD team captain, with setting a positive example. "She is always encouraging of others to enjoy their college riding experience. She's been great with the lower level riders and it's been a pleasure to have her for four years."
"The horses were wonderful and the judges did a great job," agreed Campbell, the USEF/Cacchione Cup reserve champion. The Skidmore graduating senior, who counts Margie Engle and Jennifer Alfano among her riding inspirations, was "thrilled" to make the top three. "After that, I had nothing to lose! I just kept soft hands and lots of leg."