By Liz Shepard — Special to the Leader
After coming off of back-to-back state championships, the Oxford High School Equestrian Team ended it’s 2018 season by earning the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association Division A Reserve State Championship.
The riders and horses ended their season Oct. 14 at the Midland County Fairgrounds with 335 points, second to Coopersville with 458 points.
“The riders showed great focus and fortitude throughout the season, undertaking all the obstacles in stride,” said Dee Shepard, the team’s head coach. “Each rider tried to the best of their ability. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Ten teams from throughout the state qualified for each division at the state championship, which compete based on team size. The A Division is the largest, with 10 or more riders.
Oxford’s riders and horses competed in events including showmanship, over fences and barrel racing during the four-day state championship.
It was the Wildcat’s 19th straight year qualifying for the state championship.
The Oxford High School Equestrian Team had to win the MIHA District 2 Division A Championship and was Region E Division A reserve champions to qualify for the state competition.
At the state championship, the Wildcats defeated teams from Lakeland, Lowell, Caledonia, Chippewa Hills, Shepherd, Deckerville, Perry and Morley Stanwood.
The Wildcats narrowly held on to the reserve championships, with Lakeland just three points behind in third place.
“Our competitors were very well prepared and rode very well,” Shepard said. “The riders and coaches of Lakeland were extremely supportive and made the competition fun and exciting. Coopersville came out strong and never looked back. Both teams were exceptional and we look forward to meeting them again next year.”
Shepard also credited the dedication of the parents and assistant coaches in the continued success of Oxford’s program.
“I think they got better every meet. Having such a young team I didn’t know what we would have and how competitive we would be, but I feel the more they competed the better they got,” said Assistant Coach Kellie Wicker.
Riders start formal practices every spring, with training already starting for next season.