October 02, 2013 - By Liz Shepard
The Oxford High School Equestrian Team poses with its MIHA Region E Divsion A championship trophy at the Ingham County Fairgrounds Sunday. Pictured (from left): Rossie Shepard, Gabi Galley, Jenney-Ayn Gill, District II Chairman Fred Stockely, Nicole Musgrove, Captains Kylie Reis and Ian Diedrich, Chloe Jones, Alex Kline, Lauren Sakosky, Brooke Boger and Mia Phillips. (click for larger version)
Special to the Leader
The Oxford High School Equestrian Team is continuing its hunt for back-to-back state championships.
The Wildcats earned the Michigan Interscholastic Region E Champions Sunday. The team of 11 riders competed at the Ingham County Fairgrounds starting Friday and throughout the weekend to capture the title.
Oxford earned the championship with 456 points. Chelsea High School came in second out of seven teams with 360 points.
"The kids and horses were all great, I have every confidence they will continue on their road to success at the state championship," said Dee Shepard, the team's head coach.
The riders now have less than two weeks to prepare for the MIHA State Championship at the Midland County Fairgrounds, where the Wildcats took home the state championship Division A trophy in 2012.
Equestrian teams compete by size. Oxford is in Division A, the largest of the teams with 10 or more riders.
Oxford will face teams from Gull Lake, Coopersville, Howell, Whitmore Lake, Dow High, Bullock Creek, Traverse City Central, Big Rapids and Chelsea, according to the MIHA site.
This will be the team's 13th straight trip to the state championship.
While the equestrian team is not recognized as a sport by the district, its run would capture the school's record on consecutive years qualifying for a state championship.
Mike Watson, Oxford's athletic director, said the school's longest district championship streaks are 10 for wrestling and nine for girls basketball.
Shepard, who has coached the team for 13 years, said she is pleased with how her young team has come together. Six of the 11 have not shown MIHA before this year.
"I think we definitely have a chance for state champions for a second year," said Jennifer Fifield, one of the team's assistant coaches and a 2012 OHS graduate. "It will take everyone's best ride and no mistakes but with concentration and precision, it can be done.
"The majority of the team is new to MIHA, so how much each rider has accomplished and learned in the little amount of time is amazing and I am proud of each one of them."
Ian Diedrich, a team captain, said the team has grown together throughout the season.
"It makes us a better team," he said. "You don't want to let one another down."
While Diedrich said the regional meet wasn't as difficult as he had thought it would be, the team isn't resting.
"We just have to practice more so we can continue to be at the top," he said.
Co-Captain and fellow junior Kylie Reis said the team is ready for the state championship. "I'm excited to try to prove even when we lost all our seniors we can still come in and put up a fight."