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Gamecocks revel in third equestrian championship

USC's Amber Henter
USC's Amber Henter mbergen@thestate.com

South Carolina’s third equestrian national championship did not come easy.

The Gamecocks defeated United Equestrian Conference champion Fresno State, Big 12 champion Baylor and SEC champion Georgia in a span of 36 hours to win this year’s championship.

No. 3 South Carolina upset top-ranked Georgia 10-6 late Saturday to win the NCEA National Championship, the program’s first national title since 2007.

“What an outstanding day, words don’t begin to describe how proud I am of this team,” South Carolina coach Boo Major said. “I have to give all of the credit to the girls because they came to Texas with the goal of winning a national title, and they did every single thing they needed to do to make it happen.

“This is a great moment for our program, and to send our seniors off with four championship rings, that’s quite an accomplishment. ... We’re excited to bring the trophy back to Columbia and share it with all of our Gamecock fans.”

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs won two points apiece in equitation on the flat to start the match. Georgia took a 1-0 lead after winning the first point of the meet, the Bulldogs’ only lead on the day. USC seniors Adele Norton and Amber Henter won back-to-back points in their final collegiate competition.

The team again were deadlocked after the western arena as the Gamecocks and Bulldogs each won two points each in horsemanship. Junior Abigail Pait and senior western captain Sam Chiodo scored for the Gamecocks.

Tied at 4, South Carolina won 3-of-4 points in the jumping arena to take a 7-5 lead. Samantha Smith won the first jumping point and Henter followed with a win in her final ride. After Georgia won the next point, sophomore Sydney Smith gave the Gamecocks a two-point lead heading into the final event.

The Gamecocks clinched the victory in the reining, winning 3-1. Georgia won the first point, but USC won the final three points. Holding an 8-6 lead and needing one point or a tie to win the meet, junior Sarah Bouchard defeated Georgia’s Lauren Tieche, 136.5-128, to clinch the championship for South Carolina. In their final rides, seniors Layla Choate and Cody McMillion also posted wins.

“Our reining team has been waiting since last year’s championship for this moment, and they really made it count today,” Major said. “... We got to send Layla and Cody out with wins, and for Sarah Bouchard to clinch the meet for us – I think that was a fitting way to win the championship.”

USC finished the season with a 12-5 record.

National champions

... 2002 - Women’s Track

... 2005 - Equestrian

... 2007 - Equestrian

... 2010 - Baseball

... 2011 - Baseball

... 2015 - Equestrian