April 2, 2011

BRYAN, Texas - The top-ranked Texas A&M equestrian team brought home the program's first-ever Big 12 title on Saturday, as the Aggies recorded a dominating 11-4 victory over No. 4-ranked Oklahoma State in the finals of the Big 12 Championships at the Brazos County Expo Complex.

The A&M western team swept all eight rides on the day, while the Aggie hunter seat squad came within an eyelash of its ninth victory of the year. All four schools that sponsor equestrian in the Big 12, which began awarding championships in 2009, are ranked in the top seven nationally. The Aggies improved to 12-1 on the season with the victory.

"Winning the Big 12 Championship is huge to us because our conference is so tough," head coach Tana McKay said. "To come out and ride like we did, especially with all the preparation and work that goes into hosting a championship, is huge. I couldn't be any prouder of the entire team. They did a fantastic job."

In the first half of the show, the horsemanship squad got things rolling with sophomore Carey Nowacek, junior Amanda Brightwell, junior Katie Lisabeth and senior Randi Standley all picking up victories. Lisabeth was named MVP following her strong 156-152.5 win over Marissa Dalton.

The reiners carried the momentum into the back half of action, with Standley, senior Tara Christiansen, sophomore Becca Murray and junior Abigail Grabein topping their Cowgirl opponents. Standley's combined score of 142 earned her a win over OSU's Christy McElreath and was the Aggies' championship-clinching ride.

The western team's blanking of the Cowgirls (8-6) was a Big 12 championship first. It was only the second clean sweep by A&M's western riders in school history and the first since February of 2007.

"It's very rare to sweep an opponent, especially against a team the caliber of OSU," McKay said. "We were on our `A' game for sure. OSU made a few mistakes, and when you get to this level you just can't do that. I think our girls were mentally very tough today and that's the name of the game at this point."

The A&M hunter seat squad picked up two points over fences, with sophomore Kori Pickett (159-140) and sophomore Emily Williams (164-150) comfortably defeating their opponents. In addition, senior Brooke Coleman earned a 155-all tie against her foe, OSU's Ellie Sparks. On the flat, junior Maggie Earle topped the Cowgirls' Allison Rose, 161-140, to close out the scoring.

The show was also the final one at home in the careers of the members of the A&M equestrian Class of 2011. The seniors finish their time in Aggieland with a 26-1 home record, winning their final 17 shows at the Expo Complex.

Texas A&M now turns its attention to the Varsity Equestrian National Championships, scheduled for April 14-16 at the Extraco Events Center in Waco (formerly the Heart O' Texas Coliseum).

"The momentum this title gives us is huge, but we can't rest on it," McKay said. "The pressure only gets greater as you head to nationals, and I think our team understands that. There's always work to do. The main thing is to just stay focused. If they can keep this focus and energy and team spirit, the sky is the limit for us."

BIG 12 EQUESTRIAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday, April 1
Semifinal: (1) Texas A&M 10, (4) Kansas State 6
Semifinal: (2) Oklahoma State 10, (3) Baylor 6

Saturday, April 2
Championship: (1) Texas A&M 11, (2) Oklahoma State 4
Third-Place: (3) Baylor 9, (4) Kansas State 6

CHAMPIONSHIP: TEXAS A&M 11, OKLAHOMA STATE 4

HUNTER SEAT: OSU 4, A&M 3

WESTERN: A&M 8, OSU 0

    Horsemanship: A&M 4, OSU 0
    Carey Nowacek (A&M) def. Lauren Halvorson (OSU), 151-145.5
    Amanda Brightwell (A&M) def. Mamie Tomlin (OSU), 151.5-148.5
    Katie Lisabeth** (A&M) def. Marissa Dalton (OSU), 156-152.5
    Randi Standley (A&M) def. Ashley Kennedy (OSU), 150.5-150

    Reining: A&M 4, OSU 0
    Tara Christiansen (A&M) def. Jenna Blumer (OSU), 142-138.5
    Becca Murray (A&M) def. Rachel Houchin (OSU), 142.5-141.5
    Randi Standley (A&M) def. Christy McElreath (OSU), 142-136.5
    Abigail Grabein (A&M) def. Caroline Daniels (OSU), 141-131.5

    ** MVP