Big 12 Champion Bears prepare for NCEA National Championship

Sophomore Carly Salter competes against West Texas A&M on Sept. 22, 2017 at the Willis Family Equestrian Center. Courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Kaitlyn DeHaven | Digital Managing Editor

At the end of March, Baylor Equestrian claimed its fourth Big 12 Title, this year over Oklahoma State. Now, the team is taking on an even bigger challenge by opening the NCEA National Championship run in their hometown – Waco. This will be the 14th year the championship has opened in Waco.

Head coach Casie Maxwell said that it was a great confidence booster to with the Big 12 championship, and it’s even more impressive that they won on the road. She said although this was an amazing opportunity for the team, they cannot forget that they have competition in these next few matches.

“Our message to them is that’s not going to carry us to the national championship,” Maxwell said. “It’s a great confidence booster, but now we’ve got to kind of forget about it and move on because this one’s definitely up for grabs here.”

Equestrian will be entering the competition as a No. 3 seed this year, which is a step up from last year’s entrance as a No. 7 seed. In 2017, the team entered the championship as the No. 1 seed, but the excitement got the best of the team, and they came to their downfall in the first round.

Senior Abbi Demel said the older players talk to the younger girls about the 2017 NCEA Nationals to remind them that nothing is guaranteed.

“We’re definitely not forgetting about it,” Demel said. “Just keeping it in the back of your mind and just have it light that fire behind us and make sure we come out strong that first round so it doesn’t happen to us again.”

Maxwell just came into her coaching position last year, and said she is pleasantly surprised that the team is already doing so well. She said two of the things that have helped greatly are the multitude of young riders and the strong senior leadership. She said these two things have led the team to push each other to be the best versions of themselves.

“it’s been really neat to watch that [camaraderie] grow and watch that develop,” Maxwell said. “I think it starts with how close they are with each other personally and outside of the team. It carries into their ability to be great teammates and really push each other “

Maxwell said some seniors to watch are Demel and senior Kaylee Mellot. In addition, she said that there are also some astounding younger riders, such as sophomore Sydney Scheckel, who is coming off Big 12 rider of the year in reining and has had an impressive season.

Maxwell said for any spectators, this championship event would be a great meet to come to, even if they don’t know anything about the sport. She said the energy and the atmosphere is joyous and infectious, and there are many women there who would love to teach any observers about the sport.

“When you get here you see the teams rallying and cheering, and that’s not the norm for this sport,” Maxwell said. “People don’t understand a lot of the sport. But if they come out here and sit near a student-athlete, you’ve got hundreds of girls here who are happy to talk about their sport and educate anyone about what’s going on. So where better to do it than from teams across the country.”

Demel said that her hopes going into the NCEA National Championship are that the team’s season-long efforts will show, and ultimately, they’ll take home the national champion title.

“It would be awesome,” Demel said. “I know the Big 12 has always been important to us, but the national championship is the best of the best. So, it would be awesome and it would definitely be history for Baylor Equestrian.”