The Bucs’ Kaitlin Brace, Stephanie Szymas, Corinna Frings, and Olivia Ortiz will compete in the finals at the Midland County Fairgrounds today through Sunday.
“It was really nice having everyone out here supporting us,” Brace said. “It’s nice that they’re recognizing all the sports here.”
This is the first time Grand Haven has advanced to the finals as a varsity sport.
“This is only our second year as a varsity sport,” said head coach JoAnne Kosanic. “Last year we had great kids, but we had some horse issues. This year, we’ve had good horses and we’ve had a lot of diversity in our riding skills. We’ve got girls who are great showmen and girls who are good at speed events. All in all, it’s a nice group.”
Kosanic holds high hopes for her squad realizing state finals glory, because she figures one of their top competitors will be Ludington, a squad Grand Haven has defeated at both the district and regional competition.
“Ludington will be right there again, and I’ve done a little scouting and I know that Sandusky has a talented program.”
Szymas and Brace are the Bucs’ team captains and each began competing in equestrian in their middle school days.
“Our team has the ability to excel in everything,” Szymas said, whose family’s farm holds the team’s horses throughout the season. “Our team is very well-rounded. We each have our own special disciplines.”
Riders will be judged and scored on how well they perform patterns with their horse at the fairgrounds, as well as how well they work with and present their horse.
Working with and learning the tendencies of a new horse was a challenge for Frings at the beginning of the year, since she’s a German exchange student.
“One of our other girls had a horse that wasn’t being used, so we matched (Frings) up,” Kosanic said. “They’ve actually been really successful together and she’s shown improvement every day. Sometimes it’s a risk taking a new rider on an unfamiliar horse.”
Grand Haven advanced to the state finals by winning its Region D title on Saturday at the Western Michigan Fairgrounds in Ludington. Among the teams that Grand Haven defeated was Traverse City St. Francis, last year’s state champion.