October 17, 2012 - The Oxford High School Equestrian Team had a long ride home from the Midland County Fairgrounds Sunday night, but they didn't return empty handed.
OHS Equestrian celebrate as state champs. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
The Wildcats won the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association Division A State Championship after four intense days of competition.
The Wildcats last brought home a state title in 2008 when the team won the Division C championship. Divisions are based on team size, with A being the largest and D the smallest.
While Oxford had a three year hiatus from the top, the team continued to make its presence known. In 2009 it earned fourth place; 2010 it was in third behind Milford and Hartland; and in 2011 the team was reserve champions in the A division to Hartland.
This was the Wildcats 12th straight appearance at the state championship under Coach Dee Shepard.
Shepard said what pushed her team to the top this year was simple.
"Their attitude, the determination, the cohesiveness, they were all of one mind," said Shepard of Addison Township. "They were all willing to work toward the common goal of a state title."
The Wildcats ended the state competition with 325 points, with Hartland clinching the reserve championship with 278 points and Howell in third with 265 points. Ten teams competed in the A division at the state championship.
Captain Audrey Seely was the top point earner for the Wildcats, placing in all of her classes and earning a total of 92 points for the team.
The high school junior said going into the state meet the team knew it was going to face strong competition.
The team of 13 riders had a simple motto as they competed in hunt seat, western, saddle seat, jumping and speed competitions: Every ride counts.
"I couldn't have been more proud and excited," said Seely, 16. "We really came together as a team and we felt united all holding that trophy together. We were finally victorious."
Kaitlin Trezil, who was a member of the last Wildcat team to earn a state championship, has been an assistant coach with the speed riders since she graduated from OHS in 2009.
"They really pulled themselves together and stayed strong as a team under pressure," she said.
For senior and captain Katie Champagne, her final season as a Wildcat couldn't have ended better.
"I couldn't be more proud, it's amazing to be part of it,"the 18-year-old said.
Champagne is one of six riders to graduate this year.
Shepard said the seniors will be missed and their experience helped push the team to the top
While every year is a rebuilding year for the team, Shepard said that doesn't change the Wildcats' goal.
"We have every intention of going for another state title next year."