By Liz Shepard — Special to the Leader
The Wildcats have done it again.
For the 19th year straight, the Oxford High School Equestrian Team has qualified for the state championship.
“Every year is new with new challenges,” said Head Coach Dee Shepard, who started coaching the team at the start of the streak. “New riders, new experiences, we start every year with the expectation of having to work hard to make it to States, we do not rest on our past performances to carry us through the next season.”
The Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association season started for the Wildcats in Armada over a course of three district meets in September. The team secured the District II, Division A championship over Clarkston.
“The team has improved at every meet by becoming better and more accomplished with each new experience,” Shepard said.
Both Oxford and Clarkston proceeded to the Region E Championship in Mason Sept. 28-30.
Oxford won the Division A reserve regional championship, with 407 points, edged out of the championship by Lowell with 438 points.
The Wildcats defeated teams from Clarkston, Cedar Springs, Tecumseh, Saline and St. Johns.
Oxford now heads to Midland Oct. 10-14 to the state championship, where it will go head-to-head with the top teams in the state.
“I think the team enjoys having such a great history of success,” Shepard said. “And it helps each new team drive to be as successful as the last.”
Last year’s team made the historic mark of becoming back-to-back state champions.
Shepard said the team is ready for another run at the title.
“We like to encourage our riders to continue to improve on a daily basis, and I think once they reach States, they realize how much effort is needed to maintain the success we have had,” she said.
Karen Logan, District II chairwoman, said she’s not aware of any other team making it to the state championship 19 years straight.
She credits Oxford’s strength to the “tireless efforts of the coaches.”
“Proud of the efforts of all the coaches who put in countless hours to improve the riders on their teams ability to compete, whether it is physically, mentally or socially,” Logan said in a message. “MIHA prepares riders for the reality of working as a cohesive group for the spirit of competition and this district shows the level of commitment required to make it to the state level. Congratulations to all teams, but especially those from District II, which includes Lapeer, Oakland and Macomb counties.”
Teams compete based on number of riders, with the A division being the largest teams.