Mt. Lebanon rider to compete at IEA nationals
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When the country's top middle and high school horseback riders gather for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals next month, a local competitor will be among them.
Rachel Wiles, an eighth-grader in Mt. Lebanon's Mellon Middle School, will compete in the Middle School Hunt Seat Future Beginner Class at the event, which is scheduled for May 16 to 18 in West Springfield, Mass.
Competing on the big stage could be nerve-wracking for some young riders, but Wiles is eager for the opportunity to compete against 24 of the nation's best young equestrians in her division.
“Some of the other girls (I train with) have made it to the Western Nationals, so I kind of know it's a big deal and there are going to be a lot of cameras and it's going to be on TV,” she said. “Of course I'm nervous, but I'm not as nervous because it's cool just to make it to nationals. I'm more excited than nervous.”
Racing as part of the Caustelot Farms team from Cecil, Wiles receives private and team instruction from Kathy Marciak while riding her horse, Levi.
“She's a really good coach,” Wiles said of Marciak. “So she's helped all of us.”
The Hunt Seat classification is a form of English riding, where judges award points by using the equitation scoring system, judging the rider's posture, style and appearance on the horse as it strides and maneuvers over fences.
Wiles, the top point-earner in five local tournaments throughout the year, advanced to the Western Pennsylvania regional tournament where she placed first before advancing to the IEA Zone 2 championships this month. There, she claimed top honors against riders from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
Wiles said she wants to show well in her first IEA national experience, but the national event will be a memorable one regardless of the outcome.
“I want to do well and want my coach to be happy, but I know it's going to be really fun,” Wiles said.
Wiles said she enjoys the sport so much because of its unique nature, and she plans to continue riding as she enters high school.
“I think it's cool because you're controlling an animal that has a mind of its own, and being able to control it is really cool,” she said.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.
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