Riders look to walk home with win

by Austin Zalkin | 4/16/99 5:00am

The Dartmouth equestrian team concludes its spring season this weekend with the Ivy Championships at Cornell. 22 riders will compete for the Big Green in six divisions with the hope of earning a second Ivy title in three years.

"This year we're incredible," said co-captain Megan Phillips '99, who added that the team was the best she had seen in her four years at the College.

Following an Ivy Championship in 1997 -- when five schools competed -- and a runner-up finish last year out of seven teams, the Green will be shooting for the top spot again.

"[The competition's] important to the team for two reasons," Coach Sally Boillotat said. "The All-Ivy competition started here at Morton Farm. It's also important because ... the title 'Ivy League Champion Equestrian Team' does ring a bell with most on campus and is something everyone can understand."

With 14 riders who qualified for the regional finals, which were held last weekend at Dartmouth, and two who moved onto the zone finals, the Green certainly have a talented team.

Dartmouth's success in previous competitions this spring has also led to high hopes for the weekend.

The Green placed fourth in its region, placing second in three of its shows, including both of the ones at Morton. Travelling to Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, the team faced several of the nation's top teams such as Colby-Sawyer and Tufts.

"Our team's improved so much in the last three years," Brook Cosby '00 said. "This is the strongest our team's been."

The Ivy Championship is particularly special because most Ivy teams do not compete against each other during their regular seasons. Instead, riding teams have shows within their regions. Dartmouth's region consists of 13 schools, of which only Harvard is part of the Ivy League.

However, Cosby cautioned, the Championship was arranged for the enjoyment of the teams, not for serious competition.

"It has no bearing on our regular season," Cosby said. "Our team competes to go to regionals and zones and nationals."

Although no one on the Big Green will participate in the nationals this year, the two riders who made it to the zone championships, Phillips and Cosby, saw other Ivy competitors in those championships. But even though zones comprise three nearby regions, not all Ivy schools fall within the New England region.

So with every Ivy school sending a team this year for the first time, the competition will be the first in which the Dartmouth equestrian team has faced all of its peer institutions.

"It's always hard tp predict because the only team we compete against in the regular season is Harvard," Boillotat said.

Dartmouth will field riders in every major experience category, ranging from "walk-trot" to the "open" division for the most skilled riders, according to Phillips.

One rider from each division will be Dartmouth's "point rider," whose finish counts towards Dartmouth's overall score.

"The other riders are meant to knock out other schools' point riders." Phillips said.

Dartmouth's principal competition will come from Princeton and Cornell, according to Boillotat. But the Green are confident they can walk, trot, canter and jump their way to victory.