The Fox Run Middle School Equestrian Team competed during the weekend of April 14-16 at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Zone Finals at Hazelwild Farm in Fredericksburg, Va.
The team finished in first place out of all the teams in Zone 3. The Middle School team, made up of 11 riders in grades 6-8, competed from October through March to earn the opportunity to enter the Zone competition. They traveled to Lexington, Va to compete in the lEA National Finals against the best teams throughout the country, in a competition that was held the past weekend.
Team members from throughout the area include Emily Grace Swinson, Claire Peters, Logan Crouser, Grade Fernandez, Kristen Bedsaul, Claire McGovern, Sophie Bray, Ann Paterson Sparks, Elizabeth Crawford, Sara Sheets and Meg Steil. The Fox Run high school team finished fourth in the Zone this year. Bedsaul and Sparks are both students at Mount Airy Middle School.
In addition to the team qualifying, three individuals also qualified to compete individually at the event, those being Sparks, Swinson and Emily Grace Thomas. The high schoolers will compete against other accomplished riders from across the country who placed first or second in their zone as well.
Cathy Schlaeppi, the coach for Fox Run, also coaches the successful High Point University equestrian team.
In 2002, the IEA’s founders gathered and developed the organizations concept: to promote and provide equestrian athletic competition among middle and high school students. Together, and with the assistance of thousands of equestrians, parents, families, friends and sponsors, the lEA has grown into a national organization. Since its start in 2002 with 175 riders on 13 teams, the lEA now has over 12,500 members with almost 1,100 teams in 36 states.
The mission of the lEA is to introduce students in private and public middle and secondary schools (primarily ages 11-19) to equestrian sports. The lEA provides student riders with organized competitive opportunities. New riders will be introduced to the sport through the lEA. The competitions are framed like college competitions, where riders chose a random horse from a hat that they will compete with that day. The host teams provide horses or a group of hosting teams rather than each individual. This provides an opportunity for riders to compete without having the expense of owning their own horse, opening the sport to a broader group of interested participants. In addition, scholarship offerings are made available to those wishing to pursue a career in equestrian sports. As an affiliate of the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation). the lEA generally promotes the common interest of riding instruction, competition and education in matters related to the horse industry and all segments thereof. Fox Run was the first team established in North Carolina, in 2010 by two Westchester Country Day students, Mary Marshall Fariss and Elizabeth Folk, who now compete at the collegiate level. The teams compete at both the high school and middle school level. The Fox Run high school team had a national finish three years ago and last year’s middle school team placed third.
The sport is recognized by the local school system, and the athletes competing as part of the Fox Run team are considered middle school student-athletes and earn athletic letters from their school.
Fox Run is one of more than 30 teams in North Carolina alone. The teams compete regionally throughout the year and qualify for postseason competition by first or second at regional competition, followed by zone competition. Fox Run is a member of a zone comprised of teams in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.