April 21, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M -
Senior Kelly Gottfried and junior Whitney Kimble posted team-high scores in their respective divisions as the Auburn equestrian team clinched the overall national championship at the 2006 Varsity Equestrian Championships at the EXPO/New Mexico State Fairgrounds Friday.
"It is unbelievable," said head coach Greg Williams. "To know the girls rode so great in the Hunt Seat and Western is exciting. Georgia rode well. The hunt seat came down to the last rider, and we had an extremely tough horse. The last reigning ride came down between Whitney Kimble and Georgia's Carly Veldman, and Whitney won by enough points to win the Western by 1.5 points. It has been a super day and the girls have been great together. The whole team rallied and turned up huge scores."
Auburn's seventh-seeded Western team defeated No. 3 seed Georgia 841.5-840 while the Tigers' No. 5 seed Hunt Seat team defeated the top-seeded Bulldogs 776-735 to claim the national title.
Gottfried followed Georgia's Megan Richardson as Auburn's final rider in the Hunt Seat on a very demanding horse. Richardson first posted a score of 85, and Gottfried needed an overachieving score of 120 for the win. Gottfried had a sensational ride for a mark of 160. Freshman Maggie White and junior Natalie Burton also defeated their Georgia counterparts.
"It was great to have that much pressure and perform under it," said Gottfried. That it what drives me, and I went for everything I got. It is unbelievable. It has been a long four years and we have had some ups and downs this season. We were able to ride well and we all did it on the same day."
In the Western Division, Whitney Kimble posted a 142.5 as Auburn's final rider to give the Tigers the win. Kimberly Tidwell, Julie Gibbs and Ashley Griffith also defeated their Georgia opponents.
"It hasn't sunk in yet that we are national champions," said Kimble. "I know we are but it's just unbelievable. I rode before the Georgia girl and she rode very well. I had a lump in my stomach waiting for the judges' score on her ride. We worked so hard this year and it's a super feeling."
In Friday's early rounds, Auburn's Western team upset second-seeded New Mexico State, and the Hunt Seat team beat No. 4 seed Oklahoma State.
White, freshman Jenny Reinhart, and Burton led the Tigers to victory in the Hunt Seat, while freshman Ashley Milton, Kimble, freshman Ashley Griffith and sophomore Julie Gibbes helped Auburn in its victory over New Mexico State.