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Zone 5 Does It Again! Consecutive Prix De States Gold Medal Wins

Vivian Yowan, Kalvin Dobbs, Gabriela Mershad, Lauren Tyree and Chef d'Equipe Alex Jayne were all smiles after their victory for Zone 5 in the $15,000 Randolph College-USEF Prix de States Team Championships at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Photo by Emily Riden.

Harrisburg, PA – October 11, 2013 – Most of the faces have changed, but the gold medal zone has remained the same. For the second year in a row, powerhouse Zone 5 was victorious in the $15,000 Randolph College/USEF Prix De States Team Championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Making up the winning team were Kalvin Dobbs – the only returning rider from last year, Gabriela Mershad, Lauren Tyree - whose sister Catherine Tyree was a part of last year’s winning team, and Vivian Yowan. 

While Zone 5 ended up finishing four faults ahead of silver medal winning Zone 2, the hunt for the gold medal was neck-and-neck down to the last rider.

The class followed a two-round modified Nation’s Cup format in which each team started by competing over the Alan Wade designed course. From there, the top six zones returned to compete again over the same course with faults accumulating through the rounds. In both rounds, only the top three scores for each zone counted, allowing for one drop score for all teams fielding four horse and rider combinations.

Advancing to the second round were Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7, with Zones 1, 2 and 5 proving to be the night’s real contenders as all three sat tied at four faults going into round two. 

Despite being tied at the top following the first round, Zone 2 returned for the second round at a major disadvantage – they were down one rider. One of their four riders, Katherine Strauss, had taken an unexpected early dismount off of her mount Chellando Z during the first course and did not return for the second course. That meant that Zone 2 no longer had the luxury of a drop score and that all faults would be automatically counted toward their total.   

One-by-one each of the riders returned to attempt to finish the course without fault. As the lead off riders for their respective zones, Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina earned eight faults for Zone 2; Gabriela Mershad and Skara Glen’s Basel picked up four faults for Zone 5, and Sydney Shulman garnered eight faults for Zone 1 on HH Narco’s Du Marais.

The second rotation saw clear rounds from both Zone 2’s Michael Hughes and Zone 5’s Lauren Tyree, while Megan McDermott picked up four more faults for Zone 4.

As the anchor riders for each of the top teams returned, the competition really heated up. Withoutthe benefit of a drop score, the three-man Zone 2 team finished the night on 12 faults for round two and a grand total of 16 faults, guaranteeing them a medal, but it was up to Zones 1 and 5 to determine which color that medal would be.

With their final riders yet to go and the drop score still to be taken into consideration, Zone 1 sat on a total of 16 faults and Zone 5 had a total of 12. For Zone 5, the pressure came down to returning Prix de States gold medal winner, Kalvin Dobbs and his mount Tea Party. If Dobbs finished with more than eight faults, the team would fall behind Zone 2; if he finished with exactly eight faults it would force a jump-off, and if he finished with less than eight faults, Zone 5 was guaranteed either silver or gold.

“I’ve never been in the anchor spot. They’ve always put me first, and they’ve put another rider who had just as much experience as me has been in the anchor spot, so I’ve never been able to live that,” 18-year-old Dobbs said. “It was nice because I was relaxed and calm. I knew I had it under control.”

And have it under control he did. Dobbs and Tea Party finished the round with just one rail for four faults, moving Zone 5 into the first place position with a grand total of 12 faults.

From there it was all up to Zone 1 rider Victoria Arute and her mount Zakenmann Zaffier. This time, a clear round would render a jump-off for gold necessary between Zones 1 and 5, while a four fault effort would make a jump-off for silver necessary between Zones 1 and 2. 

Riders sat in suspense as Arute had a rail early in the course and as one more rail fell for a total of eight faults, Mershad and Lauren Tyree could not help but look at each other in thrilled disbelief – Zone 5 had just won the 2013 Prix de States Team Championship. 

For Mershad, an 18-year-old currently balancing riding and her freshman year at Colorado University, the gold medal win is a dream come true.

“I’ve been wanting to win a medal since I won the bronze at pony jumper finals like 8 years ago,” laughed Mershad. “I’ve been dying to win a medal. It’s especially nice because we came back for redemption from Young Riders (North American Juniors and Young Riders’ Championships). We were fourth there, so now to have gold feels awesome.”

Mershad, Dobbs and Tyree were all a part of the mid-west comprised Zone 5 team at this year’s Young Riders, so the three of them had already developed a strong camaraderie, and they welcomed newcomer Vivian Yowan, a 16-year-old from Lexington, KY. 

“It was kind of nice to have three riders that already have experience in the team competition so I could sort of count on them to help me out,” Yowan said. However, she definitely held her own tonight going clear in the first round and picking up 8 faults in the second round aboard Ralvesther.

“Vivian’s such a good rider. It’s great to see a Zone 5 rising star and to have her on the team,” said Dobbs of Carmel, IN. “We’re all so nice to each other, and we just have a fun time. I love these team competitions. I’m sad that they’re ending for me now that I’m not a junior anymore. I just really enjoy these kinds of things, and you meet some great people.”

Dobbs, and all of Zone 5, are also grateful to two people who helped make the Zone 5 teamexperience even more memorable and enjoyable – Chef d’Equipe Alex Jayne and Kalvin Dobbs’ father, Craig Dobbs. While Jayne is responsible for team coaching, Craig Dobbs is the man behind much of the team spirit, organizing details like well-designed team banners.

“My dad decided to come on board with the team when my sister started doing these team competitions, and along with Alex, he’s always been a great supporter of Zone 5, ” Dobbs said.

“Mr. Dobbs does everything. We have to thank him 100 hundred times,” Lauren Tyree added. “He’s always been there supporting us.”

Tyree is also quick to thank Jayne and is appreciative of having him as their team Chef d’Equipe.

“I grew up knowing Alex. I competed with his kids, and I’ve seen them around since I was little,” Tyree said. “It’s just a nice feeling to have your Chef be from home. It’s nice to rekindle with people from your hometown.”

While their combined team efforts earned them the win tonight, they won't take to the podium until tomorrow afternoon to accept their medals in the official awards presentation and recognition of all three of the top teams. Tonight's class also served as Phase II of the $7,500 Randolph College/USEF Junior Jumper Individual Championship, with the crowning of the Individual Champion occuring following Phase III on Saturday afternoon.Heading into the final Madeline Thatcher leads the way with four faults, Michael Hughes sits in second with five faults and Lillie Keenan rounds out the top three with 5.5 faults.

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