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USEF Junior Jumper National Championships Serve as Steppingstone Along U.S. Jumping Athlete Pathway

by Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department | Oct 14, 2023, 12:16 PM

The USEF Junior Jumper National Championships have been around for decades and provide junior athletes with the opportunity to compete against their peers as well as alongside teammates. It is a unique experience for up-and-coming athletes who are looking to take the next step in their competitive endeavors. They can get a taste of the added pressure of representing a team in a nations cup format in the Prix des States, while also experiencing the camaraderie that goes along with having teammates cheer you on. With team and individual medals on the line, it has the feel of a senior championship on a smaller scale and is a great steppingstone for junior athletes who have team aspirations for the future.

Education Is Key

“The indoor element is a huge learning curve for them, especially if they haven’t done it before,” said USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer.
(Avery Wallace/US Equestrian)

“It is very important,” USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer said of the USEF Junior Jumper National Championships. “We really like being able to see the athletes in the big ring at the North American [Youth Championships], and then get qualified to come and compete here.”

While the junior athletes are used to competing outdoors, indoor horse shows and the smaller rings provide an education component.

“The indoor element is a huge learning curve for them, especially if they haven’t done it before,” said Langer. “It teaches them a lot about how to ride their horse and keep the speed up at the same time because it is fast, fast, fast coming out of the turns. It is very quick. You don’t have eight strides to a line; it just doesn’t happen in smaller rings. That element is very important to their learning curve.”

The format of the USEF Junior Jumper National Championships with three consecutive phases of competition provides an additional educational aspect. The junior athletes hone their skills and make any necessary adjustments with a faults-converted class for Phase I, a modified Nations Cup format for Phase II, and Table II with time allowed class for Phase III. Langer and Chef d’Equipe Anne Kursinski observe the competition and take note of how riders perform in the championships.

“We like to see the improvement from one round to the next,” said Langer. “You may have a bad round. The first round is always hard. It’s new, it’s fast, it’s asking for you to be right on it right away, so it is hard. But then, they come back, they settle in, and they get it all together, and that’s what we like to see.”

That determination not only helps junior athletes at these championships, but also as they continue to toward their goals.

“We find that that riders who come out of here and out of the North American Youth Championships are riders who we look to the future for,” said Langer. “We find we have added value for them going to Europe and moving up and getting onto developing teams.”

Team Camaraderie for the Win

Zone 10 won the 2023 $15,000 USEF Prix des States Team Championship, and team members Emmeline Adamick, Ariana Marnell, Cameron Trimino, and Della White had positive things to say about their experience. Coming together as a team is no easy task, but Zone 10 found the winning formula. While the team component adds pressure to the competition, Marnell felt comfortable in that situation.

Zone 10's Della White, Emmeline Adamick, Ariana Marnell, and Cameron Trimino won gold and gained perspective on the team experience.
(Avery Wallace/US Equestrian)

“This is my first time ever riding on a team, but I like pressure, so it was fun for me,” said Marnell. I was like, ‘Bring it on. I'm ready.’”

White had similar a sentiment as Marnell’s, also putting into perspective the support that a team has to offer.

“For me, being on a team is definitely more pressure, which I like because I feel like I do well under pressure,” said White. “But at the same time, at the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. Obviously, the result is a result, and you can't be mad. I love being on a team because everyone wants to do well for each other.”

Adamick went second in the rotation in the Prix des States. She had one rail down, but she had faith in her teammates, which put her at ease with whatever happened next.

“I had one down and Ariana had gone clear, and I didn't even feel nervous for Della or Cameron because I knew that they would be amazing,” said Adamick. “I just had so much confidence in our team and their ability to do well. I didn't feel the normal pressure that comes with riding on a team.”

Trimino was also confident in her teammates’ abilities, which bolstered her own drive to do well. After having a first round that didn’t go to plan, she bounced back to a much improved four-fault round.

“It was just awesome because I knew my team was more than capable of getting it done, so I was able to trust in my teammates to go in and do the best they could,” said Trimino. “Part of the team experience for me was having a rough round. I can't just let my guard down. I have to stay strong and fight for a good round for my teammates and think about the overall end goal, which is to get gold. It was a really cool experience, and I'm glad I was able to be on a team with these fellow riders.”

Learn more about the U.S. Jumping Athlete Pathway by visiting www.usef.org/jumping.