~ Contributed Photo
Not everyone knows that Rockford High School has an equestrian team, but the group of athletes who man the roster are making sure they are starting to get the word out. One of the two RHS equestrian teams even made it all the way to the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (MIHA) State Championship this year. There were plenty of adjustments to be made as the team headed into the competitive year.
“Coming into the fall season, the team knew they would be facing a new obstacle: having a team large enough to split into two teams - A and C,” said coach Lori Veltema. “But, rather than allow this obstacle to divide them, they persevered and viewed the challenge as motivation to create a cohesive team of all ages. The team also remained positive through last minute equine change and injury; team members always helping one another in all ways they knew how. Showing off this hard work, both teams were extremely competitive at district competition.”
The district competition found the A Team, which is comprised of sophomores through seniors, finishing in fourth place, within just 50 points of third. But, the C Team, which became dubbed in the season as the “Freshman Fab Four” had a great event, finishing first. The C Team consists of freshmen Johanna Bailey, Abby Tichelaar, Helena Cary and Lillian Veltema.
Due to that impressive finish, the Fab Four moved on to the MIHA Region E competition, which took place at Ingham County Fairgrounds, September 29-30. According to the coaches, the regional was a “nail-biter.” When the final scores were tabulated, Rockford fell by just one point to the team from Tri-County. The second-place finish earned the Rams the title of Region E Reserve Champions, and the right to compete in the state finals.
The MIHA State Championship took place at the Midland County Fairgrounds the weekend of October 11-14.
According to the MIHA website, “The MIHA State Championship is where the “best of the best” teams compete in the culmination of their season all vying for the Championship trophy for their Division. The State Championship is made up of the top two teams in each division from each of the five regions. These teams have proven themselves at both the District meets and their Regional. These teams are all already champions and compete at the State Championship to prove which teams are the best in the entire state.”
At states, the freshman finished eighth with 136 points after an intense final meet, that consisted of 17 different disciplines.
“The team’s fans and families are so very proud of them,” said Veltema. “Although the team will miss the loss of five seniors, they are already looking forward to next year's competition."
~ Contributed Photo