WACO, Texas — After falling behind early in the day, the No. 5-seed Kansas State equestrian team used a late comeback to defeat 12-seed Texas A&M, 8-7, to advance to the second round of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association competition.
The Wildcats will now face No. 4 seed Auburn.
“It was a really hard fought battle today going up against Texas A&M in the first round,” K-State head coach Casie Maxwell said. “It was definitely too close for comfort and we hope to address the mistakes we made today so that we can beat Auburn by a bigger win margin.”
Going into Horsemanship, the Wildcats trailed 5-2 and were in desperate need of some points.
Chayna DeNicolo kicked things off on a positive note, earning a 146-145 win over Molli Jacobs. Rachel Wetherell followed suit, also earning a win in the form of a 146.5-138.5 victory over Logan Pluhar. K-State’s third consecutive point came from Amelia Crites, whose score of 149 was the highest in the matchup.
Kelly Bovaird finished the sweep with a narrow 146.5-141.5 win over Laura Brainard. The win in Horsemanship gave the Wildcats a 6-5 lead with one event to go.
The sweep set up a dramatic finish heading into the final event, Equitation Over Fences. Henley Adkins was first into the arena for K-State and did not disappoint.
The freshman from Moorpark, Calif., opened the event with an excellent ride, scoring a match-high 169 and earning a point. Needing one final point to seal the win, Madison Wayda entered the arena needing to outscore Texas A&M rider Leah Chenelle, who posted a 155.
With all eyes on her, Wayda guided her horse on a nearly flawless ride to earn a score of 164 and push the Wildcats into the next round.
“It was very exciting, especially going in first day against a team that is really good like Texas A&M,” Wayda said. “It was awesome to go in there and win and come out with that great feeling. Everyone rode really strong and you could tell that there was a huge improvement from the Big 12 Championship. Everyone has that confidence and faith in one another to go in and get it done.”
Earlier in the day, the K-State Reining team put together some excellent rides, but was unable to overcome Texas A&M, dropping the event 3-0.
In Equitation on the Flat, the two teams traded blows and rode to a 2-2 tie. Cat Avolese earned one of the points after she defeated Paige Russell, 145-137. Adkins earned her first win of the day in a 146-142 victory over Haley Buchmiller.
The win set up a showdown with Auburn. The Wildcats and Tigers met last season, with Auburn edging K-State, 7-5.