By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
No. 9 Baylor equestrian opened its season on a less-than-positive note, falling to No. 7 Texas A&M in a nail biter, 1579.75-1568.75. Head coach Casie Maxwell, a former Aggie, knows all too well the perils that come with a trip to College Station.
“When I first started coaching, it was really hard to go play there,” Maxwell said. “It’s great competition, great camaraderie, the team dynamic is great. We know they’re very good.”
For those less familiar with equestrian scorekeeping, the final scores ended the way they did as the result of a tie at the end of the meet. Baylor and A&M were knotted at nine, meaning the judges were forced to turn to the raw equivalency tiebreaker, which would determine the final result of the meet.
As heartbreaking as the results were, Maxwell isn’t concerned for the Bears’ season.
“I’m very proud of how this team came out and performed in the first meet,” Maxwell said. “Texas A&M is a tough place to play and our team put down some strong, confident rides. It’s tough to lose such a close competition, but we’ll focus on how strong our performance was and clean up the areas we need to improve.”
Junior jumping seat Caroline Fuller led the way for Baylor, scoring 84 points in the fences competition, and bringing home the Most Outstanding Performer award for the event. Fuller’s two 84 point showings were the best of the morning for any competitor. Fuller wasn’t alone at the top though, as junior western rider Madeline Callaway also nabbed an MOP award for her event. Freshman jumping seat Emma Fletcher had a strong collegiate debut in the Bears’ season opener, getting her first career point in an 80-78 flat win.
Despite Fuller and Callaway’s strong performances, Baylor got a slow start to the meet. After opening the meet with fences, the Bears and Aggies were even at 2. Baylor did fall behind in the horsemanship portion of the meet though, falling to A&M 4-1. At the meet’s midway point, the Aggies were on top 6-3.
After the break, Baylor began to surge. The Bears took a 4-1 win in flat, followed by another 2-2 tie in reigning, in which Callaway had a 74 point outing.
As impressive as Baylor’s comeback attempt was, it wouldn’t be enough for the tiebreaker, moving the Bears to 7-15 all time against the Aggies.
Baylor will be back in the saddle for a meet with No. 8 TCU on Feb. 6 at Baylor’s Willis Family Equestrian Center. TCU will be the second top 10 team in two meets for Baylor, and the in-conference showdown is sure to be an exciting one.