Lake equestrian team coach Connie Workman knew just what to say to her eight-member squad last Sunday at the Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (OIHA) state meet at Vail Meadows.
“A couple of them were nervous,” she said. “I just said, 'do what you've been doing for the last three weeks.' This was the first time any of them made it that far and they were excited.”
Workman's brief pep talk worked, because Lake took first place in District II, Division II. Lake scored 98 points in its division to outscore Anthony Wayne (89 points) and Tinora.
“It was exciting because it was real close,” Workman said. “Our other meets weren't that close. They pulled together and they're all good showmen. They just continued what they did the last three weeks. They are very devoted and I have great parents, and they are really into it. They've done a good job and really earned their way.”
Workman's daughter, Jenna, is a senior at Lake and a member of the equestrian team. Other team members who attend Lake are junior Morgan Collins, sophomore Ashley Landers and freshmen Ellen Johns and Alissa Knieriem. Lake's squad also includes Riley Herman, a sophomore at Woodmore, Northwood senior Holly Slater and Gibsonburg junior Demitrius Ernsberger.
Lake clinched its first appearance in the state meet after taking first place at District II's final show event, on Sept. 26 at the Wood Country Fairgrounds in Bowling Green.
“There are three meets in each district,” Connie Workman said. “There are three districts in northwest Ohio, and we're in District II, Division II. There are three divisions within each district, depending on the size of your team, so you only compete against teams of your size. There are 10 teams in our district.”
Jenna Workman rode J.D., her 15-year-old quarter horse, at the state meet.
“He was great,” she said. “I'm sure he was glad it was the last show of the season. We've had a long summer. We show every weekend in the summer. We did good in our showmanship class in the morning. I performed in six events and I placed in all of them. I spend a lot of time with him and we're a really good team.
“It was a normal show for us, so I wasn't nervous. We just did the normal stuff we always do.”
Lake just started an equestrian team last year and had four members. Jenna Workman, who showed for Perrysburg and then for Toledo Christian in 2008 before joining Lake's inaugural team, said she was happy she ended her senior year with a state championship.
“Since we're champions, maybe the school will recognize us and we can get varsity letters like the other schools,” Jenna said. “We had a great team this year and I got along well with all them.”
Collins said she and her Lake teammates were confident heading into the final OIHA event of the season.
“We didn't go out and scout the other teams,” she said. “Last weekend they scouted us out, which we didn't know. We wanted to make it special for Jenna's senior year. It was really exciting. Every team was standing in front of the scoreboard watching the scores and, in a way, we were kind of shocked. It was so close.”
Collins showed her 10-year-old quarterhorse, Ace, during the competition.
“I've had him a little over a year,” she said. “I have another horse named Credit, and I've had him for eight years. Credit is 23 now and he's retired. Ace did good. I haven't had Ace that long and we're still working on trust and our relationship. We got first in English Showmanship, first in Trail and third in Western Reining.
“I think our team has had better weekends, but our whole team did really good. We kept looking at the scoreboad to see what we needed to do to make ourselves better. It was really tough for us.”
Lake will receive its awards during a banquet next month at the Toledo Zoo.
Lake qualifies at District
If the Lake equestrian team took first place at Sunday's Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (OIHA) state meet at Vail Meadows in Oregon, there would be a very good reason.
“They're dedicated and they show all year,” said Lake coach Connie Workman, who is also a district chairperson. “They're not just in the three (district) shows or the week at Fair. They show at open shows and at open competitions all summer long. They are very devoted and I have great parents, and they are really into it. They've done a good job and really earned their way.”
Workman's daughter, Jenna, a senior at Lake, is one of the riders for Lake's eight-member equestrian team. Jenna will ride J.D., a 15-year-old quarterhorse, at the state meet.
Other team members who attend Lake are junior Morgan Collins, sophomore Ashley Landers and freshmen Ellen Johns and Alissa Knieriem. Lake's squad also includes Riley Herman, a sophomore at Woodmore, Northwood senior Holly Slater and Gibsonburg junior Demitrius Ernsberger.
Lake qualified for the state meet after taking first place at District 2's third and final show event of the season at the Wood Country Fairgrounds.
“There are three meets in each district,” Connie Workman said. “There are three districts in northwest Ohio, and we're in District 2, Division 2. There are three divisions within each district, depending on the size of your team, so you only compete against teams of your size. There are 10 teams in our district.”
Lake scored 534 points to capture first place in its district (for 5-9 riders per team) during the season. The runner-up was a team from Erie County, which had 227 points, while Genoa was third with 163. The top three teams from each district advanced to the state meet.
“We not only won our division, we won our whole district against teams that had as many as 21 riders,” Workman said. “Perrysburg had 21 riders, and in the three shows they had 385 points and we had 534 points. Fremont, the winner for Division 1, District 2, had 11 kids and they had 386 points.”
Lake's first-place district showing was even more impressive given that it is just a second-year team. Last year's squad had just four riders and still finished second in its district.
“Lake started its team last year,” Workman said. “The first year she competed, Jenna showed for Perrysburg and she showed for Toledo Christian in 2008. Only three or four schools out of the 10 in our district recognize the (equestrian) teams. It's not recognized at all as a school sport. We did really well last year with only four kids and we got more kids this year who did more disciplines, so we got more points. Most of my kids show year-round, and I think that gives them an advantage.”
Workman added that the OIHA state meet gets bigger every year. This is the 10th year for the event.
“In Michigan high schools, equestrian teams are huge,” Workman said. “It's almost as big as football. It's just taken some time to get the word out here. We're pulling people from farther and farther away. This year in District 2 we have 75 riders who ride 96 horses. You're allowed to bring two horses (to meets) and do different disciplines with them.”
Lake's squad will compete in 18 different classes at the state meet, including Western Showmanship, Saddle Seat Showmanship, Seat Showmanship, Saddle Seat Equitation, Saddle Seat Pattern Class and Saddle Seat Bareback Equitation.
“We're up against Anthony Wayne and Tinora, and I think we have a pretty good chance,” Workman said. “I'm not too familiar with Tinora, but Anthony Wayne is always good competition. They do real well in their district. Two weeks ago at Bowling Green we got 200 points at one meet, which is very good. I think we have a really good chance on Sunday.”
The Lake equestrian team — (L-R) Ashley Landers, Ellen Johns, Jenna Workman, Morgan Collins, and Allissa Knieriem. (Photo courtesy of Connie Workman)
The Lake equestrian team — Ashley Landers, Morgan Collins, Ellen Johns, Jenna Workman, Demietrius Ernsberger (Gibsonburg), Riley Herman (Woodmore), and Holly Slater (Northwood). Alissa Knieriem is not pictured. (Photo courtesy of Connie Workman)