Talent was in no short supply Saturday at Deeridge Farms, when athletes in CSI Youth Team Competitions for Children (ages 12-14), Juniors (14-18), and Young Riders (16-21) took to the Sand Arena with an enthusiastic gallery of fans, family, and support teams looking on. For the second consecutive year, U.S. athletes coached by Chef d’Equipes DiAnn Langer and Anne Kursinski put in a strong showing, earning gold medal wins across all three age groups.
Created to mimic the format of a Senior CSIO5* Nations Cup, CSI Youth Team Competitions provide a critical training ground for showjumping’s future stars. The event brought together a cast of international athletes, with youth riders from the U.S., Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ireland, and Mexico represented during Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Week at the Palm Beach Masters Series®.
Stars & Stripes Victorious in the $10,000 EnviroEquine CSI Young Rider Team Competition
An American team comprised of Natalie Dean, 20 (Maestro Vica v/d Ark); Isabella Russekoff, 19 (Balou’s Fly High); Coco Fath, 19 (Exotik Sitte); and Sophie Gochman, 17 (Carola BH) recorded the most dominant victory of the day in the 1.45m $10,000 EnviroEquine CSI Young Rider Team Competition (ages 16-21).
“I’m very proud of all of them,” said Stars & Stripes Chef d’Equipe, U.S. Olympic medalist Anne Kursinski. “The girls ride great, and the horses are fabulous. It’s great to give them that team experience that we in our country don’t [often] get.”
With three early clears in Round 1, Stars & Stripes had earned their zero score—and then the win in Round 2—without the need for anchor rider Sophie Gochman to compete. “It’s just an honor to be asked to ride for this,” Gochman said. “[Carola BH] loves [this result]. She just shows up and poses for a picture!”
The squad bested their countrywomen on Team Star Spangled, who took silver on a score of 12; and bronze medalists, the Maple Leaves, on 50. “I think the course was really nice today,” said Dean, who jumped the only double-clear of the afternoon, despite having concerns about the time allowed. “We did an inside turn, just to make the time easy. [Maestro Vica v/d Ark] is only eight years old, and I thought he jumped really well today.”
“I just think it’s incredible; they didn’t have any of this when I was a little kid,” said Kursinki of the format, which consisted of back-to-back jumping rounds over the same course. “It’s great hearing from the kids from one round to the next. If you have a great round, you [strive to] repeat it, [or for] some of them, [it’s about] changing their equipment a little bit or changing their strategy in the riding.”
With all four team members expressing their desire to move up to a higher international level in the sport, the EnviroEquine CSI Young Rider Team Competition also provided critical experience in riding under pressure, as well as the chance to make new friends. “It’s really fun to be able to ride as a team and cheer on your teammates,” said Dean. “I knew Sophie, because we competed in Belgium together, but I didn’t know Coco or Isabella that well at the beginning of the week, so it was really fun to get to know them.”
Added Kursinski, “The winning is fabulous, but the overall experience is wonderful, [as is] the camaraderie.”
Star Spangled Triumphs in the $8,000 CSI Junior Team Competition
The second win of the day went to Star Spangled in the 1.40m $8,000 CSI Junior Team Competition (ages 14-18). Helmed by a double-clear performance from Mimi Gochman, 15, and Street Hassle BH, teammates Hallie Grimes, 17 (Leasure Z); Siena Vasan, 18 (Tokyo d’Ellipse); and Virginia Bonnie, 16 (Efodea) pulled out all the stops. Their final score of 8 was enough to overtake Stars & Stripes in second place on 10, with Nations Unite in third on 22.
According to Vasan, the heat was on in Round 2. “Our teammate, Hallie Grimes, jumped clear in the second round, and that put some pressure on me to also do well,” she said. “I knew going in that I really needed to fight hard, dig in, and make sure I supported my horse over all the jumps [in order to make] the time allowed.”
“I actually really liked the back-to-back format, because if you make mistakes in the first round, or you weren’t comfortable, and your horse knows the course, it gives you an opportunity to fix your mistakes,” added Gochman. “[Street Hassle BH] jumped amazing—he always tries his best and he’s game for everything. I’ve been with him for three years now, so we’re a good [pair].”
According to Langer, the future is bright for all four members of her Junior squad. “The experience that they’re getting through these team events is just priceless,” she said. “I look forward to seeing all of them on a Senior [Nations Cup] team in a few years.”
American Eagles Win the $3,500 Bainbridge CSI Children’s Team Competition
The morning led off with a victory by the American Eagles in the 1.20m $3,500 Bainbridge CSI Children’s Team Competition (ages 12-14). The winning group was a rookie squad comprised of Stephanie Garrett, 13 (Fani Puigroq); Sara Pezza, 12 (Dundalk); Brooks Hull, 12 (Gorky); and Laurel Walker, 13 (Biaggi). “I was really glad to be able to have the opportunity to [do this Team Competition], which is sort of a building block for my bigger dreams and goals,” said Hull, who led his team in Round 1 on a zero score.
Garrett and Walker brought the win home in Round 2 with additional clears, helping the American Eagles finish on a score of 12. Team Clover Leaf was silver with 14 penalties, while the Aztecs took home bronze on a score of 20. “I am just so thankful that I got to have this experience and be with such a great team,” said Walker. “To be on Team U.S.A., with [senior] riders like Brian Moggre and Beezie Madden, who I’ve looked up to for years, that’s just amazing.”
American Eagles Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer shared in the excitement. “Our Children’s team for the last couple of years have all aged out this year, and this is a brand new group coming on,” she said. “For them to step up and jump this height at this point in their careers is amazing.”