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The Canby High School equestrian team thundered into the Pacific Northwest Invitational Championship at Moses Lake, Washington, earlier this month, where their talented young drill team did the same thing at the regional finals that they have done all season: win.
The regional competition, the final in the high school equestrian season, features the top five competitors or teams in each event from the two state organizations: Oregon High School Equestrian Team (OHSET) and (WAHSET).
Canby’s premier drill team of Sadie Schweitzer, Madison Wheeler, Madi Bigej and Hailey Magenheimer — which had previously triumphed at the district and state levels — took home the gold belt buckles in an event called freestyle fours.
“The team had an exceptional performance at the Pacific Northwest Invitation Championship,” coach Kristen Schweitzer told the Current. “The athletes were so nervous that morning but one of our former Canby OHSET team members was there helping and encouraging the girls to take a deep breath and have fun.
“They made it this far and they should just go out, do their performance and have fun; after all, this was the last time they’d be performing this drill. The girls did just that! Having previous OHSET athletes there helping and mentoring this year’s athletes has been amazing.”
The drill team was particularly in need of some veteran insight given its youth and inexperience: The quartet is made up of three freshmen and one sophomore — none of whom had ever competed in a drill team event before.
“This drill team has been nothing short of amazing,” Schweitzer said. “They worked hard together as a team and accomplished great things. Our drill coach, Sam Steinke, is incredibly proud of what this group of four has accomplished this year, especially since they are all newbies.”
The team’s chemistry has been one of its staples all season, culminating with its gold medal performance in the same event at the 2022 OHSET State Championship meet in Redmond last month.
“This group of four works as a team: They practice together, cool down together and have fun together,” Schweitzer said. “They support each other in both the good and the bad. These relationships are what make great teammates and have allowed them the success they’ve had this year.”
Winning the regional competition was the “perfect ending to their incredible season,” the coach said.
“After the performance, the girls came out of the arena with the biggest smiles on their faces,” she recalled. “They had put on a great performance, and they knew it. It was now up to the judges to make the final decision.
“When Canby was announced as the champions, they erupted with squeals of delight, hugging their drill coach. Tears of joy filled their eyes.”
The Canby team’s score of 2,043 was enough to squeak by second-place West Valley (2,032) and Myrtle Point (2,009).
Canby athletes had also qualified for the regional finals in a number of other events. Schweitzer also punched her ticket with third-place state championship performances in dressage, showmanship and in-hand trail, as well as a fifth-place showing in team sorting with partner Madison Wheeler.
The team of Schweitzer, Wheeler, Magenheimer and Hannah Smith also earned bids to the PNWIC for team versatility and in-hand obstacle relay.
Outside of freestyle fours, Canby’s highest places at regionals were Schweitzer’s fourth-place showing in in-hand trail and the in-hand obstacle relay team’s fifth-place finish.
The Canby OHSET team is financially self-supported and competes without school or district funding. They fully rely on support from generous community members and businesses and their own money to help fund the care of their horses, transportation, competition fees and so on.
Anyone interested in information about how to help support the team can reach out to Schweitzer directly at email@example.com.
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