Oct. 6, 2011
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by: Anthony Alfano, Auburn media relations
Coming off a season in which Auburn equestrian won the Overall National Championship and were both the Hunt Seat National Champions and the SEC Champions, Auburn senior Hunt Seat rider Rachel Cooper not only has high expectations for herself, but for her teammates also.
"My hopes are that we can enjoy our win from last year, but at the same time, keep the hunger that we had," Cooper said. "I think it's easy to become comfortable after we achieved what we did. So hopefully we have the same drive as we did last year and we bring home another Hunt Seat National Championship as well as a Western and another Overall Championship too."
For Cooper, growing up, equestrian was always an individual sport, but when she came to Auburn she learned what it meant to be a member of a team, thanks to Head Coach Greg Williams.
"He made me excited for the Auburn Equestrian team before I even got here," Cooper said. "Before college, I didn't know what it was like to compete with 40 others girls, to be able to work for the same thing and to have the same drive."
Now a senior, Cooper is transitioning into a role as a leader. She has enjoyed getting to know all her new teammates and mentoring them in any way possible.
"All of them are eager to learn," Cooper said. "I remember being nervous in that way, but at the same time wanting to learn. I enjoy answering their questions and I look forward to being more vocal in a positive way."
The unity of the equestrian team is apparent even when they are not practicing or competing. In their free time, Cooper and her teammates volunteer and enjoy giving back to the community. The team frequents organizations such as Storybook Farm, Auburn Food Bank and the Humane Society.
"My freshman year, the seniors would encourage us to get involved in reading at schools and donating our time to other organizations," Rachel said. "A lot of our team does it, and it is fun to do things together. Every year that I've been here our team has won the community service award as well."
Cooper is the definition of a student-athlete. She has received the Top Tiger Award for academics and is also on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. She is proud to note that thanks to her coaches, who instill the importance of being a student first and an athlete second, she can succeed at school and athletics at the same time.
"A lot of the times, at the end of the day, when you're exhausted from practices, workouts and going to classes, it's hard to study, but we do," Cooper said. "It's important to understand that you can represent your team well in the academic area and also in athletics."
Cooper is majoring in journalism and after college she would like to be a journalist with aspirations of working in Atlanta. She enjoys reading The Plainsman every week, as well as the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Vogue.
Spending a lot of time with her teammates at practices, volunteering and competitions has helped Cooper develop close friendships that will last a lifetime.
Life after equestrian is hard to imagine for her since she has shared so many valuable and memorable experiences with the team over the past four years.
"I honestly won't know what to do with myself," Cooper said. "I'm going to miss going out to the barn everyday and seeing the girls' faces."