South Jordan, Utah – The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)/American Vaulting Association (AVA) Vaulting National Championships were held on August 24-27, 2017, at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park in South Jordan, Utah. Leading the way were U.S. vaulting veterans Mary McCormick and Kristian Roberts, who won the Female Gold and Male Gold divisions, respectively.
McCormick, (Cañon City, Colo.), captured an astonishing seventh national championship in her star-studded career, which includes two top-five individual finishes at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010 and 2014. This week, she and Duke Wilhem, Sydney Frankel’s 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, along with lunger Carolyn Bland, won the Female Gold division with a compulsory score of 7.700. She and RF Bentley, owned by Rick and Virginia Hawthorne, along with lunger Jill Palmer, scored 7.417 in the technical test, and in the freestyle she scored 7.247. Her final score was 7.455.
“Being crowned national champion is a tremendous honor that never gets old,” McCormick said. “I'm just as excited about this victory as I was with my first one. It takes a huge effort and the support from many to make it to the top, and I'm left feeling humbly grateful that I was able to do it again.”
McCormick revealed that she made a last-minute horse change when her horse pulled up sore before the competition. “It was by the grace and support of others that I was able to be successful at this competition!” she said.
While acknowledging her “good genes” with a smile, McCormick attributes her success at the top of the sport for more than two decades to her team, her training, and her mindset.
“I definitely consider my age when I'm thinking about the future, but I don't let it get in my way,” she said. “I show up each year with an open mind, and as long as I feel like I am able to handle the physical demands and keep improving, I keep going! I love this sport and hope to compete in it for as long as possible.”
Second place in the Female Gold division went to Kimberly Palmer (Half Moon Bay, Calif.), who was on her and Jill Palmer’s Zygo, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding, with lunger Jill Palmer (7.200 compulsory/6.113 technical/7.578 freestyle/6.964 overall), while Bonnie Ubben (Gig Harbor, Wash.), finished third on Indiana Jones IV, Lorilie Robison’s 19-year-old Thoroughbred-cross gelding, with lunger Robison (6.150 compulsory/6.085 technical/6.975 freestyle/6.403 overall).
Equally dominating in the Male Gold division was Kristian Roberts (Moss Beach, Calif.), who won his fifth national championship. Roberts and Cypress Hill, Frankel’s eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding, along with lunger Carolyn Bland, had scores of 7.347 in the compulsory, and he vaulted with Palatine and Bland to a 5.852 in the technical test. With Duke Wilhem and Bland, Roberts scored 7.472 in the freestyle for a 6.890 final score.
“It was good competition,” Roberts said. “I’m excited to still be here and be at the top. This one especially means a lot to me.”
Roberts ended up competing on three different horses. His freestyle horse, Duke Wilhem, has only been vaulting for a year and he only had one week of practice with him. “He went the best he could have gone. I’m so grateful for that horse.”
Second place in the Male Gold division went to Kaleb Patterson (Stanwood, Wash.), who with Satie, Bethany Wilhelmsen’s 14-year-old American Warmblood gelding, and lunger Kelly Gee, scored 6.983 (compulsory), 4.217 (technical), and 6.108 (freestyle) for a final score of 5.769.
The A team division victory went to the F.A.C.E. team of Alena Hammond (Eagle Mountain, Utah), Shaina Hammond (Eagle Mountain, Utah), Madeline Lampard (Topanga, Calif.), Kalyn Noah (Calabasas, Calif.), Luke Overton (Stanwood, Wash.), and Alyssa Stoddard (Saratoga Springs, Utah), with their horse Maximillian, Gayle Glisson-Kuhlberg’s 12-year-old Irish Draught horse gelding, and lunger Devon Maitozo. Their compulsories score was 6.659 and their freestyle score was 6.778 for a final team score of 6.719.
Maitozo, one of the most well-known and decorated American vaulters, started the F.A.C.E. team in 2000. While he has always been a part of it, he returned to the team full-time in 2012 as the coach. The decision was made to take their junior team and compete at the A Team level after just missing the cut to qualify for the FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors.
“We decided that the Nationals would be our final competition and be our final goal [for the year],” Maitozo said. “It is a very nice way to end a very difficult and meaningful year for us. For me and the club, it’s always a step toward something else, to see what else we can do with our momentum. We have hopes of looking to [the World Equestrian Games] next year and potentially putting a team together.”
The F.A.C.E. team is now based out of El Campeon Farm in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Maitozo believes that has taken them to the next level. He said, “They’ve embraced us, and we’re just in heaven there. It’s helped us in the last month keeping our horses healthy and prepared. Our horses were really fit and ready. [El Campeon is] about high performance and showing the best at elite level. Now we come back as National Champions. It’s nice to do this and represent them well.”
The Mile-High Vaulters Club fielded the Rocky Mountain Team: Finding Neverland with vaulters Jace Brooks (Eagle Mountain, Utah), Calle Davis (Spanish Fork, Utah), Melanie Ford (Fort Collins, Colo.), Rhianon Hampton (Greeley, Colo.), Rachel Jensen (Provo, Utah), and Jim Roedel (Fort Lupton, Colo.). They had a compulsories score of 5.828 on their horse Hampton with lunger Jorden Hobbs. In the freestyle, with their horse Sampson, Jodi Rinard’s 19-year-old Percheron gelding, and lunger Rinard, they scored 7.262.They finished second in the division with a final team score of 6.545.
The B Team victory went to Mt. Eden Vaulting Club – Safari, who had a compulsories score of 5.784, a freestyle score of 6.757, and a final team score of 6.271. Second place were the “Guardians of Disco” team from Mile-High Vaulters, who scored 5.922 in compulsories, 6.215 in freestyle, and 6.069 in their final team score. The winner of the C Team division was Mt. Eden Vaulting Club – Toy Story, who had a compulsories score of 5.050, freestyle score of 5.107, and final score of 5.079.
In the Trot Team, OC Vaulting came away with the win on a final score of 5.716, while Mile-High Vaulters “Spy Kids” team was second (5.420) and Mt. Eden Vaulting Club – Peter Pan was third (5.363).
The Los Angeles Equestrian Vaulting Club “California’s Girls” won the Open 2-Phase Team division with a score of 7.374. Mile-High Vaulters “The Lost Boys” were second (6.592), and Oak Hills Vaulting was third (6.265). The Prelim 2-Phase Team division winner was OC Vaulting (7.031), Technique Equestrian Vaulting Club was second (6.433), and A Vaulting Connection/Therapeutic Horse Connection was third (6.086).
Junior 2* Vaulters Shine
In the Female Junior 2* division, the top placing went to Caroline Morse (Los Gatos, Calif.). She and Grasshopper AF, Jana Morse’s eight-year-old American Warmblood gelding, along with lunger and coach Samantha Matson had a compulsory score of 7.374 for a final score of 3.687.
Second place went to Hallie Dudley (Elizabeth, Colo.) on Briar Rose, Lee Dudley’s 12-year-old Clydesdale mare, with lunger Dudley (compulsory 6.468, final score 3.234). Helen Mills-Selch and Rembrandt, Connie Geisler’s nine-year-old Percheron/Thoroughbred gelding with lunger Geisler, finished third (compulsory 6.016, final score 3.008).
Morse competed in her seventh national championship and has been vaulting for 10 years. This is her first individual national championship win. She and Grasshopper AF have been vaulting together for two years.
“He’s a pretty trusty horse, and I have a lot of faith in him. I know he’s going to do his job,” she said. “My coach [Samantha Matson] was the one who trained him and made everything happen for me and him.”
After competing at the FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors at the beginning of August, Morse came to the USEF/AVA Vaulting National Championships with a different attitude.
She explained, “When we came here, I just wanted to have fun and be stress-free. I was excited to go in and have fun and be relaxed. I think it helped my performance.”
In addition to her Junior 2* victory, Morse also won the Female Silver Individual division with scores of 7.253 and 7.082 for a final score of 7.168. Calle Davis placed second on a final score of 6.849, while Tessa Belardi (Aptos, Calif.) was third with a final score of 6.654.
The winner of the Male Junior 2* division was Jace Brooks. He and Satie with lunger Kelly Gee scored 6.515 in the compulsory and 6.583 in the Freestyle with a final score of 6.549.
It was a family affair for Brooks, as lunger Kelly Gee is also his father. This was Gee’s, as well as his horse Satie’s, second competition ever. Brooks has only been working together with his father and Satie since February. It was also the first national championship for Brooks’ team, Wasatch Peak Vaulters.
“It means a lot more [to win] when it’s your dad and your own horse,” Brooks said. “I haven’t been on my own horse for two or three years, so to be with my own horse and my own lunger, it felt really cool.”
Brooks has set his next goal, to compete at the 2019 FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors with Satie and his father.
Brooks also placed second in the Male Silver Individual division on a final score of 6.722. The win went to Luke Overton who had a final score of 7.328. Christian Ramos (Cañon City, Colo.) placed third on a score of 6.560.
Pas de Deux Competition
In the Prelim Pas de Deux Freestyle, victory went to Sydney Schimack (Laporte, Colo.) and Jim Roedel (Fort Lupton, Colo.) of Mile-High Vaulters. With horse Sampson and lunger Jodi Rinard, they scored 6.362 to win.
Second place in the Prelim Pas de Deux Freestyle went to Caitlyn Mendik (Castle Rock, Calif.) and Hallie Dudley on Briar Rose with lunger Lee Dudley of Velocity Vaulters with a score of 6.015. The Mile-High Vaulters also placed third with the pair of Augusta Rose Lewis (Longmont, Colo.) and Emma Milito (Centennial, Colo.) on Shelby, Rinard’s 16-year-old Percheron mare, with lunger Rinard. They posted a score of 5.945.
The OC Vaulting Club vaulters Olivia Carlucci and Allison Binckes won the Trot Pas de Deux Freestyle with a final score of 6.156. Claire Jones and Hailey Williams (Great Falls Vaulters) were second on 5.895, while Persephone Brown and Calli Ann Kennedy (Mile-High Vaulters) were third with a score of 5.761.
Additional Individual Results
Schimack also took the Female Bronze Individual division on a final score of 6.732, while Marie Obeloer (Sunnyvale, Calif.) was second with a 6.640 final score and Dudley was third with a 6.294.
Charles Smith (Temple City, Calif.) won the Male Bronze Individual division with a final score of 5.549.
In the Female Copper Individual division, Maya Drusinsky (Cupertino, Calif.) won with a 6.522, Hayden Avakian (Costa Mesa, Calif.) was second on 6.460, and Augusta Rose Lewis (Longmont, Colo.) placed third with a score of 6.394. Marshall Collins (Fort Collins, Colo.) won the Male Copper Individual division with a score of 5.609, while Martin Valdez was second on 5.560, and third place went to Stefano Como with a score of 5.550.
Anna Sullivan (Rutherford, Calif.) won the Female Trot Individual class, while Bryan Sutherland was victorious in the Male Trot Individual class.
For more about the USEF/AVA National Championships, go to americanvaulting.org.
To learn more about the U.S. Vaulting Team, visit usef.org or follow USA Vaulting on Facebook.