Mt. Eden Sweeps First Day Of Kentucky Cup Vaulting

The Mt. Eden Vaulters, of Saratoga, Calif., dominated the first day of the Kentucky Cup Vaulting at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Kentucky Cup is the vaulting test event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games next September.

Vaulters representing the Mt. Eden team, of Saratoga, Calif., are leading the all four individual divisions and both of the team competitions.

In Thursday's individual competitions, each vaulter performed exactly the same one-minute routine of seven exercises, while in the team competition each of the seven members performed twice, performing a total of four exercises each. Judges from Germany, Italy, and the United States evaluated them.

Mt. Eden vaulters are standing first and second in the women's CVI 2*, from a field of 20 starters. Mary McCormick, 26, of Woodside, Calif., nipped Megan Benjamin, 21, of Saratoga, Calif., by 7.826 to 7.781. Benjamin is the reigning World Champion, and McCormick is an accomplished international competitor.

Shannyn Poer, 23, of Venice Beach, Calif., claimed third, scoring 7.463.

"I'm, obviously, very excited to be on top, and being here for this test event makes me feel a lot more prepared for the 2010 WEG," said McCormick.

Seasoned international competitor Kenny Geisler, 28, of Sunnyvale, Calif., established a sizeable lead in the men's 2* division, scoring 6.644. Kristian Roberts, 16, of Moss Beach Calif., earned 6.400 to grab second from Erik Martonovich of Las Vegas, Nev. (6.244). Martonovich has returned to competition while continuing his career training horses for and performing with them in stage shows.

"This was one of the best sets I've been able to perform in years," said Geisler.

With a smile, Geisler attributed Mt. Eden's sweep of the day to "a great organization. We have a lot of people helping us out, but the most credit goes to our coaches, Emma Seely and Jessica Ballenger. They're always on the prowl for new and better horses and new ideas," he said.

In the 2* team event, the Mt. Eden Sun Team turned in a clean, smooth and professional performance on Sampson, a horse they'd never vaulted with before. The horse they'd planned to use became sore yesterday. Their performance put them more than 1 point ahead of the Woodside Vaulters.

Kyra McCarty, 17, of San Mateo, Calif., started the Mt. Eden sweep by claiming the narrowest of leads in the CVI 1*. Both she and Rachel Bublitz, 16, of Parker, Colo., earned an average score of 6.300, but McCarty placed first because she scored higher in the tie-breaking exercise. Karly Frankel-Newman, 14, of Menlo Park, Calif., is just behind in third, scoring 6.289. A total of 33 women started the 1* division.

"We all had really clear rounds today," said McCarty, who's looking ahead to he decisive freestyle round. "I'm concentrating on being really there mentally for the freestyle. I want to make sure my freestyle is really clean too."

All the leading vaulters had high praise for the new indoor arena. Benjamin, who won the gold medal at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, Germany, declared, "This arena is already better than Aachen-and I love Aachen. But this is a real indoor arena, not just an arena with a cover over it, so you don't get wet when it rains. You don't even hear the rain drops!"

"The arena is organized really well," said Frankel-Newman. "My horse, Cheval, is normally not a fan of indoor arenas, but he went really well today."

Joey Gadd, 14, also a member of the Mt. Eden team, said that his horse, Lanson 16, liked the arena too. "It's very open. It doesn't seem like a horse-eating cavern to them," he said.

Gadd said that his horse's performance was the main reason he took a narrow lead in the men's CVI 1*, scoring 5.878 to edge Shawn Ricci, 31, of Shawsville, Va. (5.874). Clay Thomas, 14, Newtown, Va., claimed thirdæ (5.626) in the three-man field.

"I was a little bit nervous today, but I think I did pretty well in my first international competition," said Gadd.

"I can't complain about my performance," said Ricci, who's a professional ballet dancer when he's not vaultingæ

Thomas said that he "had some mental blocks that kept me back."

The Mt. Eden Eclipse Team, which includes McCarty and Benjamin, suffered no mental or performance blocks as they took a decisive compulsory lead from the Woodside Vaulters. The seven-member Mt. Eden team scored an average of 6.252, while Woodside scored 5.477.

The Mt. Eden Eclipse Team showed impressively crisp timing as each member vaulted on and off their horse Giovanni, and each team member demonstrated stronger, more assured poses than their rivals.

McCarty said she prefers the team competition to the individual. "If something goes wrong [for me] in the team competition, I get a lot more upset because I've let six other people down. I put a lot more fight into the team," she said.

Almost all the vaulters praised the Ottosport footing that the organizing committee placed over the dirt arena floor for this event. This is the indoor version of the Ottosport footing that's used in the outdoor arenas at the Kentucky Horse Park.

"It's the best vaulting footing in the world," said Benjamin.

"This footing is much more supportive than what we usually vault on. I like it very much," said Geisler.

About the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). Her Royal Highness Princess Haya is the current president of the FEI. The Games are held every four years and this will be the first occurrence in the United States.

The Games will be broadcast on NBC Sports, which has marked the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $150 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International, Inc and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. For more information on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, please visit

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners