There was only one postseason opponent that came within 50 points of the 2015 Grand Haven equestrian squad, and that wasn’t until the finals.
The Buccaneers practically breezed their way to a state championship, with only defending champion Howell coming close (366-345).
“I think it’s because we’ve developed our program over so many years,” said coach Jo Ann Kosanic, when asked how her team won in such dominant fashion. “We just know how to play the game very well. I’m just fortunate to have very talented kids and support from the community.”
Grand Haven was coming off a sixth-place finish in 2014, which Kosanic said was a motivating factor.
“We just had so many obstacles in our way that year, I don’t even know how we lived through it,” Kosanic said. “That just made the girls more determined the following year. We just had everything go wrong that year. … Sometimes things like that are just meant to be and you learn your lesson from them.
“It was (a motivating factor), even for myself. We always had a Plan B, but I realized we need to have a Plan C and a Plan D. Luckily none of those blocks were put in front of us. We had a tremendously good year. I don’t want to say that were lucky, but we weren’t unlucky.”
She said strong character also helped the squad to succeed.
“They are just a really accepting group and supportive of each other,” Kosanic said. “The freshmen ladies were a little intimidated coming in because the kids from before were so good. But they just said, ‘They’re really nice, so friendly.’ … They’re just a really pleasant group to work with.”
GRAND HAVEN’S PATH TO THE STATE TITLE
Grand Haven won its third straight and final meet of the season, clinching a district title with a score of 220 points. The total put the Buccaneers at 668 points for the season, nearly 200 more than the next closest competitor, Fruitport (478).
Grand Haven swept the Western Equitation class, with Rya Greene, Lily Atkinson, Kyah Shumake and Cassidy Ryder placing first, second, third and fourth, respectively.
Atkinson led the Bucs’ charge with 55 points, turning in wins in Western Bareback, Trail and Cloverleaf. Greene was the second highest scorer for Grand Haven (39 points), with wins in Hunt Seat Showmanship, Hunt Seat Bareback and the Western Horsemanship.
Cassidy Ryder added another 38 points to her team’s total, placing near the top in all of her classes. Mara Tilman scored 36 points with wins in Saddle Seat Pattern, Saddle Seat Bareback and Equitation over Fences. Kyah Shumake garnered 24 points for the team and had a win in Western Showmanship. Ashlynne McKee chipped in with 23 points.
The Bucs recorded 534 points during their two-day regional, clinching the victory. Second-place finisher Traverse City St. Francis was 144 points behind at 390 points and Fruitport finished third at 334 points.
Grand Haven was led by sophomore Mara Tillman, who won five classes and scored 111 points with her horse, Nacho, while fellow sophomore Cassidy Ryder won two classes and added 100 points with her horse, Madison.
Junior Lily Atkinson added 92 points with her horse, Truman, and 44 points with her horse, Harley. Fellow junior Rya Greene added 90 points with her horse, Sydney, while Kyah Shumake added 62 points with her horse, Sophie.
Freshman Ashlynne McKee competed in the first day of regionals and added 35 points with her horse, Lacy, but was unable to finish the event due to a fall with her horse.
The Bucs’ score of 366 edged defending champion Howell’s 345. Third-place Oxford was nearly 100 points behind the two leaders.
The Highlanders won in 2014 with a score of 325, making the 2015 title all the more impressive for Grand Haven.
Grand Haven dedicated the championship to the late athletic director Robin Bye, who helped equestrian become recognized as a sport at the school.
Lily Atkinson led the Bucs with 102 points in 10 classes over the four-day competition. Atkinson scored a win in Hunt Seat Showmanship and placed in Hunt Seat Equitation, Western Equitation, Western Bareback, Western Riding and Trail with her horse Truman. With her horse Harley, she scored in Equitation over Fences, Cloverleaf and Poles.
Fellow junior Rya Greene amassed 73 points in seven classes. Green had a win in Western Showmanship and scored points in every class she competed in: Hunt Seat Showmanship, Hunt Seat Equitation, Hunt Seat Bareback, Western Equitation, Western Bareback and Trail.
Sophomore Mara Tillman also had a strong weekend, scoring 66 points in six classes. Tillman had a double win in Saddle Seat Pattern and a victory in Saddle Seat Bareback. Tillman also added points in Saddle Seat Equitation, Equitation over Fences and Hunt Seat Bareback.
Junior Kyah Shumake scored 53 points in six classes with her horse Sophie. She had wins in both Western Showmanship and Western Equitation, and scored points in Saddle Seat Showmanship and Western Bareback.
Sophomore Cassidy Ryder scored 42 points in eight classes with her horse Madison. She won the Saddle Seat Showmanship class and scored in Western Showmanship, Saddle Seat Pattern, Saddle Seat Bareback, Hunt Seat Bareback and Western Bareback.
Freshman Ashlynne McKee rounded out the scoring for the Bucs, accumulating 30 points via five classes with her horse Lacey. McKee also won a Hunt Seat Showmanship class and accumulated points in Hunt Seat Equitation.
Best of the Rest
No. 3, Muskegon Catholic Central Football
No. 4, Western Michigan Christian Boys Soccer
No. 5, Western Michigan Christian Girls Soccer