The Lake High School equestrian team won its fourth consecutive state championship.
Led by Coach Connie Workman, the eight-member team won the Division II Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association title with 257 points, dwarfing the scores from the next three schools, Anthony Wayne (143), McComb (137), and Fremont (131). The state championship meet was held at the Fulton County Fairgrounds just outside Wauseon.
In fact, Lake finished with more points than any of the teams in any of the three divisions.
|Lake equestrian team members are (from left to right) Lauren Nissen, Ellen Johns, Hannah Duty, Kylee Smith, Alissa Knieriem, Rhianna Reaume, Taylor Barndt, and Hannah Johns. Coaches (not pictured) are former Lake team member Jenna Workman and head coach Connie Workman.
On top of that, Oak Harbor won the D-I state title and Genoa finished atop the D-III standings to claim their respective championships. Oak Harbor won over district champions Erie and Napoleon, but Workman says Erie gave the OH team “some stiff competition.” Genoa won by a 60-point plus margin over state runner-up Springfield.
Lake was led by three seniors, Ellen Johns, Alissa Knieriem and Rhianna Reaume. Johns and Knieriem rode on all four championship teams during their time in the program. Johns, Knierim, and Reaume are Lake seniors while the rest of the unit consists of three Elmwood students, Hannah Duty, Kylee Smith, and Taylor Barndt, Rossford student Lauren Nissen, and Johns’ younger sister, Hannah, a freshman at Lake.
Workman says what stands out about the group is their unselfishness and willingness to work together for one common goal.
“They all scored points,” Workman said of her riders. “They all contribute equally (and) we don't keep score because it's a team thing. We are a pretty well-rounded team. Everyone has their little niche so we get points in all the different classes.”
According to Workman, it’s not just her team that shares a great camaraderie with one another, but the same goes for the competitors from all the teams.
“All of my girls show all summer long in either 4-H or open shows at county fairs, the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, breed shows and different circuits,” Workman said. “At the end of that season, they come together and (the competitors) grouped by schools. It mixes everything up and it's a real fun atmosphere. They all cheer for each other because they have friends on the other teams. It’s a little more relaxed and not as stressful as it is during (other events). It's a good mix of kids that really know what they're doing and other kids that are just learning, and it’s a nice atmosphere for all of them.”
There are a variety of different classes of competition, among them showmanship, which includes English and Western riding styles. In some classes, the participants ride the horses bareback and there is also a jumping class, among others.
“It's a wide variety,” Workman said, “which gives them an opportunity to do something new and compete and show what they're good at.”
To get to the state meet in Wauseon, the Flyers had to advance from the district competition that was held at Wood County Fairgrounds. That includes the three regular season shows that take place on Sundays in September.
“We won all three of our district shows,” Workman said. “Then we went to the state meet at Wauseon.
“The coaches and team would like to thank all our parents, grandparents and helpers who are with us at every show and support us and our horses all year long,” Workman continued.
Workman is hopeful that, in time, equestrianism will become more popular amongst people in the surrounding communities, and that schools that have not welcomed the activity as a club or varsity sport will do so someday. Some already have.
“It is unfortunate that it's not more of a recognized sport,” she said. “(The kids) work with their horses and take care of their horses all year long. It's not just for a season. There is great camaraderie, great competition. We're hoping to get Ohio to have the schools recognize the sport.”
For more information, visit www.OIHA.org.