Geisler Gets The Edge At USAEq/AVA National Vaulting Championships

Aug 29, 2003 - 5:16 AM

While temperatures soared in Denver, Colo., the percentage points separating competitors at the SAEquestrian/American Vaulting Association National Championships became smaller and smaller, and, in one case, ceased to exist.

In the race for the women’s gold individual championship at the Denver National Western Stock Show Complex, Aug. 7-10, Katie Richie and Pamela Geisler placed consistently well in the two rounds.

Richie, of Coast Line Vaulters, Santa Cruz, Calif., took fourth place in Rounds I and II, while Geisler, of Diamond Bar Country Vaulters, Diamond Bar, Calif., earned second place in each round. It was that solid consistency over Samantha Smith (first place Round I) and Megan Benjamin (first place Round II) which gave the event to Geisler. But it was close.

The overall averages for Geisler and Benjamin (Mt. Eden Vaulting Club, Saratoga, Calif.) came up exactly the same–both 8.191. The final decision rested in the scoring office and the rulebook, which gave Geisler the edge.

Richie stepped on the podium to receive third place, and Smith took fourth.

World champion and coach of F.A.C.E. Vaulters, Devon Maitozo, of Moorpark, Calif., dazzled the judges with his Round II performance but could not quite make up for a mishap in the first round, where he took third place. His student and teammate, Blake Dahlgren, put in a stellar performance in both rounds to come out on top when the final average was made.

Announcer for the event and AVA President, Nancy Stevens Brown, allowed to the audience that the proof of a good coach is that their students might surpass them. At least for this year’s championships, that indeed turned out to be the case. Coach Emma Drinker of the Mt. Eden Club couldn’t have been happier with the weekend. Both her teams, the Sun Team in the A Division and the Moon Team in the B Division, came home with the championships.

The Moon Team in B Division (Kenna McKenzie, Krista Frankel, Elizabeth Naumann, Mickey Kent, Hannah Boyd, Michele Stevens, Ashley Miller, Megan Lanfri) nailed both the compulsory and freestyle phases to become the clear-cut champions. Solid compulsories and a safe but exciting freestyle gave them all the points they needed to win.

Only 0.009 points divided the A division’s top two teams. Mt. Eden performed beautiful compulsories with an outstanding mill exercise.  But for the freestyle, the relatively new kids on the block, Coast Line Vaulters, put in a searing performance that had the audience on its feet.

It was choreographed and performed with not a single unnecessary motion, smoothly executed with style, a high degree of difficulty and grace, with moves that smoothly flowed one to the other. The judges gave the team a 9.090, and it was almost enough. But Mt. Eden (Stephanie Freedman, Alexis Garrod, Ginny Kaufmann, Olivia Swan, Megan Benjamin, Brittany Dutra, Morgan Rogers, Tammy Smith, Jessica Ballenger) again earned the title.

“Not” wasn’t in the vocabulary of the Silver Star Club from Tennessee. Coached by Mary McCormick, last year’s silver women’s champion, it was their first C Team entry (Caitlin Libby, Lily Wray-Davis, Christi Mathews, Cassie Stoevener, Mary McCormick, Cate Thomas, Morgan Stoevener) at Nationals.

McCormick hails from California, vaulting originally with the Tambourine Team. She made the move to Tennessee and couldn’t get vaulting out of her system. The solution? Start a club, win the silver women’s championship and come back to win C Team! That’s what is happening all over the country.

This year’s championship had a record 46 clubs from 17 states, with more than 320 vaulters and 73 horses. In 2004, for the first time, there will be separate East and West Championships that will, depending on their success, take place alternately with the Denver location. In addition, the U.S. Equestrian Team has announced a Vaulting High Performance Plan to give gold and silver vaulters the opportunity to participate in a series of training camps.

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