April 21, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Auburn equestrian coach Greg Williams had a 13-hour bus ride from Waco, Texas to the famed oaks in Auburn for one last roll of Toomer's Corner on Sunday night.
It was worth every second.
Williams watched his equestrian team win the national championship on Saturday in a ride-off over Georgia, and prompted Auburn to extend the final roll of the oaks by a day. The final celebration was supposed to be after Saturday's A-Day Game, but the equestrian team changed all of that.
"I felt like Auburn kept the party going and waited on our girls to get here," Williams said.
These Tigers didn't come empty-handed, Williams said.
"They brought the party favors with them."
Like what? Like the national championship trophies.
Auburn is supposed to remove the trees Tuesday. But there was still time to celebrate another national championship before that.
"The Auburn spirit is alive and well," said Athletics Director Jay Jacobs after the overtime roll Sunday.
Auburn won the Hunt Seat national title and then the overall national title by beating Georgia 3-1 in the ride-off.
Williams selected Elizabeth Benson in the Hunt Seat and Cheyenne Cracraft in Western to represent Auburn. They came through.
"For me to be chosen," said Cracraft, "it showed the whole team was standing behind us and rooting for us. It was a great honor."
Benson came through, winning for the eighth time over the weekend.
"Going to the final round you know you really have to bring to get those three or four final points," she said.
Williams said the ride-off set up well for Auburn.
"We knew we had to force an overtime playoff, and we did. It couldn't have been a better format for us, and it couldn't have been a better scenario than to do it against our biggest rival, Georgia," Williams said.
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association event featured the top equestrian teams. Benson and Cracraft finished off the competition, but other Auburn riders who scored points Saturday included Hasbrouck Donovan, Lindsay Portela, Quincy Hayes and Jennifer Waxman.
Still, Auburn's win came late.
"It's an extremely stressful three days," Williams said. "The pressure builds and builds and builds. You have no breathing room. You can't make errors. I felt like they gained more and more confidence through the weekend."
Though the oaks will soon be gone, rolling Toomer's Corner on Sunday wasn't an end for Auburn, Williams said.
"It definitely it won't be the last time it'll be rolled for a national championship."
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