World Equestrian Games 2010 Test Event: Kentucky Cup Vaulting

Kenny Geisler and Megan Benjamin, the most successful American vaulters competing today, solidified the Mt. Eden Vaulters' domination of the Kentucky Cup Vaulting on July 31. Geisler, 28, was leading the CVI2* men's division (6.979) at the competition's halfway point, and Benjamin, 21, was leading the CVI2* women's division (7.933).
 
The Kentucky Cup is the vaulting test event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games scheduled for Sept. 25-Oct. 10, 2010, at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington.
 
Benjamin, the 2006 World Champion, won the freestyle decisively July 31, scoring 7.993 to best runner-up Mary McCormick, 26, of Woodside, Calif. (7.527), who won the compulsory phase yesterday. Benjamin is now the overall leader (7.887), with McCormick second (7.527). Annalise Van Vranken, 27, of Mays Landing, N.J., stands third overall (7.520).
 
"This was the first time everything seemed to go really well in a long time," said Benjamin of Saratoga, Calif. Although she was a member of the silver medal U.S. team at the 2008 World Championships, she said that "for the last year I've been doing a lot more studying than vaulting."  She now has her sights set on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
 
McCormick said she had some trouble getting used to Lanson 16, who isn't her usual mount. "I was a little disappointed in the way it went. It felt like we were out of sync with each other," she said.
 
Van Vranken was pleased with her score, considering "I kind of fell out of one of my moves."
 
Geisler, an international competitor for more than a decade, won today's freestyle by 0.3 points to widen the lead he took in Thursday's compulsory round. His two-day total of 6.979 has put him comfortably ahead of Kristian Roberts, 16, of Moss Beach, Calif. (6.700). Mikkel Vandrup of Denmark has moved into third place (6.404).
 
"I just concentrated on trying to do my best today, and that's how it worked out," said Geisler of Sunnyvale, Calif.
 
Vandrup performed some of the day's most daring moves, including dismounting with a forward arial cartwheel over the longe line to land next to the horse's head. But he couldn't hold the landing and somersaulted once across the ground, coming right back up on his feet.
 
"I wanted to do my thing--to go out there and entertain, and I hope the people watching had some fun," said Vandrup, Denmark's most accomplished male vaulter.
 
Rachel Bublitz, 16, of Parker, Colo., was the only woman in the CVI1* division to achieve an average score above 7.0 that day. With a score of 7.387, she took a commanding lead (6.844) over Kathryn Jaggers, 15, of Portola Valley, Calif. (6.488). First day leader Kyra McCarty, 17, of San Mateo, Calif., placed third in the freestyle to fall to third overall (6.420).
 
"I was really shocked by my scores today, but I'm pleased because I know I could do even better," said Bublitz. "The jumps are kind of my strong suit, and I did them well."
 
McCarty knows that anything could happen in the next two phases. "Sure, I could have done better today, but you can't complain if you're in the top three," she said.
 
McCarty's Mt. Eden teammate Joey Gadd held on to the top spot in the men's CVI1*, winning the freestyle by almost 0.8 points to take a commanding overall lead (5.832). Gadd was the only one of the three male competitors to not receive a major deduction for falling from the horse's back.
 
"It was the best freestyle I've ever done," said Gadd, 14, of Saratoga, Calif. He said he's suffered a series of minor injuries this year and had missed training. "I thought I did it well this time and that I accomplished my goals," he added.
 
Shawn Ricci stands second (5.391), and Clay Thomas stands third (5.363).
 
The Mt. Eden Eclipse one-star team held its lead in the team competition, despite several mistakes that included one member falling off their horse Sir James. The Woodside team actually won today's freestyle (5.687 to Mt. Eden's 5.220), but Mt. Eden's lead from the compulsory phase has kept them 0.15 points in front. The Mt. Eden vaulters said they hoped that today's performance had shaken out their nerves before Saturday's decisive second freestyle.
 
But the Woodside two-star team turned the tide on the Mt. Eden Sun team in their division. This Woodside squad also decisively won Friday's freestyle--and by enough to take the overall lead. Woodside's two-day total is 6.569, while Mt. Eden's is 6.186.
 
The CVI1* divisions conclude on Saturday with a second compulsory and a second freestyle round. The CVI2* divisions will give a special evening performance to start the second rund. They'll conclude their competition on Sunday with their second freestyle.
 
To see photos of the Kentucky Cup Vaulting, go to americanvaulting.org.

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