Vicksburg’s equestrian team captures state title

Holding trophy, from left: Olivia Cannizzaro, Torie Barga. Back row from left: Isabella Dilts, Kenzie Horning, Makenzie Freund, Maddie Miersma, Megan Burke.

From the first workouts of Vicksburg High’s equestrian team, coaches Karin and Mike Fleetwood, Kaiti Fink and Dawne Steele were excited by the talent they saw. From the beginning, Karin said, “We were confident the team had what we needed to go to the state championship.”

The team did have what it needed. And it won the championship.    

The girls competed at three district meets during August and September, ending as District 15 champions with 423 points, 228 ahead of the second-place team. The team then competed at the two-day regional meet in Berrien Springs the first weekend in October. There it ended up as Reserve Champion, 21 points behind the first-place team.

Fleetwood said the team had some bad breaks during the regional competition, but as a Reserve Champion, it qualified for the state competition. The coaches encouraged the girls, telling them they were good enough for the state competition. The girls practiced even harder to show the potential the coaches knew they had.

A caravan, one including the team, families, coaches, campers, horses, equipment and feed, headed to Midland on October 13-17 for the state competition. The team was extremely focused and worked hard each day. Every day at the end of showing, Vicksburg was ahead in the competition. On Sunday, the final day of competition, Vicksburg finished in first place with 291 points, 50 points ahead of the second-place team.

As Karin Fleetwood reflected on this year’s team, she stressed that “this is an exceptional group of talented girls who supported each other throughout the season and embodied the true meaning of team spirit.” She recognized how responsive the individual riders were to guidance and coaching and said the season was possible because of “amazing parents who were so supportive and allowed the coaches to coach.”

Seniors Torie Barga and Olivia Cannizzaro, this year’s captains, “really stepped into the role with leadership and exceptional attitudes.”

The coaches, team and parents thanked the many merchants in Vicksburg whose donations made it possible for the team to go to state.

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