The Vixens left no doubt as the No. 1 seed team, sailed to a 6-2 victory over the No. 2 seed, University of Lynchburg Hornets. Having both top teams hail from central Virginia is an added bonus for our region, in a state well-known for developing equestrian talent.
The single discipline competition opened on the flat, with Sweet Briar taking the early lead as junior Britt Larson-Jackson (Washington, D.C.) rode to victory. Lily Peterson (Ashland, Va.) continued an impressive run at the end of her senior season by posting the Vixens’ highest flat score ever at NCEA Championships. First-year Emmy Longest (Hanover, Va.) also secured a winning ride.
“Words cannot describe how blessed I am to be a part of this ‘sweet’ moment in national championship history,” says Larson-Jackson. “Cheers to my team and coaches for all the hard work we put in this season!”
“Being able to go back to NCEA Nationals after it was canceled last year was a great experience. The excitement and competitive drive was alive, even through COVID restrictions, which was very special to us,” says Peterson.
Senior Katie Balding (Williamsburg, Va.) kicked off the over fences section with a winning score, and the next Sweet Briar ride clinched the national championship as Peterson again posted the highest score by a Vixen at NCEA Nationals, this time over fences. First-year Rachel Perry (Rockville, Va.) added a final point to the score sheet for Sweet Briar. The Vixens not only topped the Hornets 6-2 on team points but 1710-1574 on raw score. Peterson was named the Equo Most Outstanding Fences Performer (Single Discipline) and named to the McClennan County All-Championship Team Over Fences.
“I am so glad that we were able to compete as a team for the entire season and at a national championship,” says Balding. “We had an amazing week filled with memories, rode amazing horses and brought home our first NCEA national title. The work that went into achieving this result has been years in the making, and I feel honored to be a part of it.”
Sweet Briar’s NCEA assistant coach Lizzie Fisch felt a great deal of pride for how the riders competed. “They worked hard to prepare, and it really paid off in the end. They are such an amazing team, and I am fortunate to be a part of it.”
On the heels of coaching the Vixens to their fourth ODAC championship and again being named ODAC Coach of the Year, director of the riding program and NCEA coach Mimi Wroten is “thrilled with the success of our team and grateful for the opportunities that have lead to our first NCEA National Championship!” Wroten emphasizes how this was a team effort and each member did her part to reach the goal. “I couldn’t ask for a better team,” she says. “Our seniors have led us to this point, and the returning and new team members have a great path to follow. It’s exciting to consider what the next 100 years of equestrian excellence at Sweet Briar has in store.”
For complete details on Sweet Briar’s winning performance at the NCEA National Championship, visitvixenathletics.com. To learn more about one of the nation’s top hunter/jumper equestrian programs, visitsbc.edu/riding.
NCEA team (L to R) Kacie Freeburg ’23, Emmy Longest ’24, Britt Larson-Jackson ’22, Katie Balding ’21, Lily Peterson ’21, Rachel Perry ’24