By Emily Oller

The Bulletin

The inaugural Northwest regional high school equestrian competition went off pretty much without a hitch.

Nearly 400 riders and their horses traveled from all over Oregon and Washington to compete in the Pacific Northwest Invitational Championships, which took place this past weekend at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond. The top five to seven state finishers from the Oregon High School Equestrian Teams (OHSET) and the Washington High School Equestrian Teams (WAHSET) faced off against one another for regional titles.

“We thought it was wonderful,” WAHSET state chair Bev Matney said. “The kids were excited and we were excited. My role was to work with the Oregon state chair (Candi Bothum) to make sure everything ran smoothly.”

Organizers expect the regional meet to become an annual affair, and Washington is planning to host the meet in 2015. Few changes are expected.

“We’ll keep the event the way it is next year,” Matney said. “We might streamline some things, but everything ran the way it was supposed to.”

Of the 25 events staged during the three-day meet, 10 riders from Central Oregon were top-five finishers in total of seven classes. One of those competitors was Bend High’s Kate Campbell, who was an alternate until weeks before the regional meet when one of the OHSET qualifiers dropped out of the barrel racing.

“I wasn’t even supposed to compete (in the barrels),” the recent graduate said. “I knew I had the potential, so if I just focused I knew I could do well.”

Campbell’s alternate status heading into the regional meet did not stop her from grabbing a first-place finish ahead of OHSET Central District teammate and Ridgeview junior Savannah Geist, winning with a time of 14.62 seconds. Campbell also competed in the figure eight event, where she tied with Amity High’s Sarah Larson for second place.

“I was the first one to compete in my event,” Campbell recounted, “so that was kind of scary because I had to watch everyone go after me.”

Also among the top finishers from Central Oregon was Bend High’s Georgann Ireland, who was first in the saddle seat equitation, and Redmond’s freestyle fours drill team of Kaycee Hansen, Billie Richardson, Kelsey Tobin, Amie Simpson and Region Hayden also won the gold. Ridgeview’s Deborah Dial came in second in the pole bending, Bend’s freestyle fours drill team of Kathleen Mitchell, Kate Campbell, Madison Lillesve and Riann Cornett was fourth. Madras’ Jacob Palin was fourth in the individual flags.

“(Regionals) was fantastic for Bend,” Lava Bears coach Penny Campbell said. “We had two champions, one reserve champion and one fourth place. I’m ecstatic. I believe the Central District represented OHSET well.”

The coach said the regional event was an opportunity for riders from Oregon and Washington to showcase their talents beyond district and state levels. The meet did not have team results and followed a standard individual competition format.

“The regional event gives those OHSET kids the opportunity to compete at a higher level,” Penny Campbell said. “Most of these kids don’t see that level of competition. And it was a really great opportunity for those kids to meet and interact with other kids from Washington and around the state.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0375,