The Tigers defeated No. 5 University of South Carolina (7-6) Friday afternoon, 145, and No. 1 University of Georgia (12- 3) Saturday morning, 12-7. Sophomore Hunt Seat rider Maggie McAlary said it was great to win, especially because the team came close last year.
“Last year, we wanted to win and it didn’t work out that well we lost to Georgia,” McAlary said. Auburn led Georgia at halftime, 7-3, after winning Western Horsemanship, 4-1, and Hunt Seat Equitation over Fences, 3-2. “Being ahead in the first half is really important,” said senior Western rider Kim Pope.
Pope also said getting four points in one event is important.
“In nationals we only compete four, so being able to win four out of five let’s you know how we’re set up for nationals,” Pope said. The second half was closer than the first, with Georgia winning Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat, 3-2, and Auburn winning Western Reining, 3-1.
“It did get close,” Williams said. “Georgia’s been one of the most dominant Hunt Seat teams in the country, so you know you can’t quit on them at the half,” McAlary, despite suffering an ankle injury over spring break, won both MVPs.
“Maggie is a great rider and is having a phenomenal spring,” Williams said. “She has been rehabbing had all week long trying to get it where she can just get a boot on and ride, so we’re really proud of her.”
McAlary was humble about being named MVP. “I’d rather win as a team than win for myself,” McAlary said. Auburn will travel to Waco, Texas, to compete in nationals April 15-17.
Williams said winning the SEC championship was a boost to the national championships. “It’s like a prelude to nationals, because these three schools are always in the top at nationals every year,” Williams said. McAlary said beating South Carolina and Georgia will help Auburn prepare mentally for nationals.
“Georgia and South Carolina are both really good competitors,” McAlary said. “Beating them back-to-back is a big confidence builder.” Auburn will most likely have a bye in the first round of nationals, being one of the top four teams. McAlary said there are advantages and disadvantages to having a bye in a tournament. “Getting to ride the first round is beneficial because you get to ride more horses and don’t have to sit around and wait,” McAlary said. “But going in No. 1 is definitely a really good cushion because the other schools are going to be coming for you.”
Pope said it was important to win SECs, but the team will need to focus hard on nationals. “We just need to keep our heads on straight and stay strong all the way through like coach preaches to us every week,” Pope said.