OUR TWO HIGH school equestrian teams from Port Angeles and Sequim just completed the first of three Washington State High School Equestrian Team qualifying meets, and both coaches came home ecstatic over how well their athletes performed against the more than 90 other competitors from coastal schools during the intense three-day competition at Grays Harbor Fairgrounds on Feb. 28 to March 1.
Sequim’s team this year includes Grace Niemeyer, Hannah Kokoschka, Abby Garcia, Lilly Thomas, Lexi King, Keri Tucker and Emma Albright. The team is still going strong under the guidance of long-time coach Katie Salmon-Newton. Her assistant coaches this year are Bettina Hoesel, Katie Adolphsen, Hailie Newton and Ady Crosby.
By the way, Crosby’s WAHSET State record time of 7.920 in individual flags run on beloved Sunny 2006 still stands — and I was there to watch it happen. In fact, Crosby and Sunny had a number of record-breaking times during their four years on the team and it’s exciting to see 14 years later she’s still got one in the record books.
We’ve got other local record breakers still on the books as of this writing: Former Port Angeles team member Kynzie Hendricks has held on to two District 4 records since 2013 with a figure-eight time of 17.915 and in pole bending with a time of 20.760.
In March 2019 Port Angeles team’s Cassie Anne Moore broke the District 4 record in breakaway roping with a time of 2.59, and then in April Moore and teammate Zoe Thompson gained a new fast time in team sorting at 51.03.
Sad to say Port Angeles has a very small team this year, and had only two seniors participating in the first meet. Moore is from Chimacum High School and Natalie Blankenship is at Port Angeles High School.
That said, these two gals are dynamite riders and competitors, and by the looks of the first meet I’m fairly certain by the end of the third meet in April we’ll be seeing both of them qualify for the state finals.
Incidentally, the next meet will be held March 19 to March 22 in Tacoma. The third is April 2 to April 5 at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds and state finals will be May 15 to May 17 at the Grant County Fairgrounds.
Some of you might be wondering how could Moore and Blankenship both be competing on the Port Angeles team when Moore is from Chimacum, which is in a different county?
Well, keeping in mind WAHSET was formed by horse lovers with the idea of promoting a high school sport to enable high school-aged horse lovers to have the benefit of belonging to a high school team sport. As I recall, when my niece was on the high school team with Crosby she received a Sequim High School “letter,” to display on her team jacket, just like those on the football team wore on their team jackets.
For those heading to college, WAHSET is a sanctioned high school athletic sport, being on the team is a good addition to college applications and scholarships are available. For more information visit the website www.wahset.info.
It’s the desire of the WAHSET organization that every equestrian from every discipline have the opportunity to participate even if their own school doesn’t have a team. Hence the idea of co-oping with other schools came into fruition.
Here’s the way it works: Currently, the teams are divided into seven districts throughout the state. Port Angeles and Sequim are among the nine teams assigned to District Four. Each team has the option of co-oping, or allowing students from other schools that don’t have a team, only have a couple of students or don’t have someone willing to coach, to compete with them on their team through a co-operative agreement. Out of the nine teams in District Four, three have cooperative agreements with other schools. The Port Angeles team co-ops with Port Townsend, Chimacum and Forks high schools. At this time Sequim has no co-op agreement.
As you can imagine, this arrangement can be a huge benefit to those who yearn to compete in WAHSET but their school doesn’t have a team, and, among highly competitive riders, this can offer the opportunity to sharpen one’s skills and become an even better rider when they can practice with — and even compete against — each other during practice.
A huge boon to the Port Angeles team, specifically to Moore and Blankenship, is this year for the first time WAHSET offers an option for smaller teams who had three or less competitors the opportunity to combine with another team for team events.
For example, at the first meet Moore and Blankenship combined their efforts with members of the South Kitsap Team to compete in both the 4-man and 6-plus drill team events — indeed a very exciting opportunity for both teams.
In other Port Angeles team news, last year Liv Dietzman took over the reins as Port Angeles’ head coach from Tina VanAusdale. At the time Dietzman didn’t know how long she’d be able to coach as her husband is an active duty Coast Guardman. Sadly (for us) he’s being transferred to different station and so now we must extend our good-byes and well wishes to the Dietzman family.
The good news is former WAHSET competitor and current Port Angeles assistant coach Shannon Robbins has moved up to head coach. Thank you Shannon!
At this time I do believe there is still time join a team. You’d need to sign up quickly though to be able to compete in the second meet and to possibly qualify for state finals. For more information bout the Port Angeles team email Robbins at XXX. Email Sequim’s coach Katie Salmon-Newton at [email protected]
Meet 1 results
Jumping: Grace Niemeyer, first place; Hannah Kokoschka, fourth place; Abby Garcia, fifth place.
Driving: Lilly Thomas, first place.
Showmanship: Natalie Blankenship, second place; Garcia, 17th place; Lexi King, 21st place.
In-Hand Trail: Thomas, sixth place; Garcia 21st place.
Stockseat Equitation: Blankenship, sixth place.
Working Rancher: Blankenship, second place.
Trail: Blankenship, fifth place; King, sixth place.
Working Rancher: Tucker, fifth place.
Reining: Moore, fourth place; Thomas, seventh place; King, 13th place.
Dressage: Kokoschka, second place; Garcia, fifth place; Niemeyer, sixth place; King, 13th place; Tucker, 18th place.
Huntseat Equitation: Kokoschka, fourth place; Blankenship, eighth place; Garcia, 13th place; Tucker, 14th place; King, 19th place.
In-Hand Obstacle Relay: Cassi Ann Moore and Blankenship, second place; King, Kokoschka, Garcia, Thomas, eighth place.
Working Pairs: Niemeyer and Emma Albright, fifth place; Tucker and Thomas, sixth place; Moore and Blankenship, eighth place.
Four-man Drill Team: Moore and Blankenship, second place (combo with South Kitsap).
Six-plus Freestyle Drill Team: Moore, third place (combo with South Kitsap team)
Barrels: Moore, first place; Albright, 26th place; Niemeyer, 36th place.
Figure 8: Albright first place, Thomas 18th place, Niemeyer 20th place, Kokoschka 26th place.
Pole Bending: Moore, first place; Albright seventh place.
Keyhole: Kokoschka, seventh place.
Individual Flags: Moore, first place; Albright, tenth place.
Two-man Birangle: Moore, third place (combo team); Albright and Niemeyer, sixth place; Thomas and Tucker, 17th place.
Canadian Flags: Moore, second place (combo team); Albright, Thomas, Niemeyer, Tucker, sixth place.
Steer Daubing: Tucker, ninth place.
Breakaway Roping: Moore, third place
Cattle Sorting: Thomas and Tucker, second place; Moore and Blankenship, eighth place.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.