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KC trio helps Creekside Farm take Zone 4 riding championship
THE TEAM FROM CREEKSIDE FARM displays their ribbons and hardware which they won at the Zone 4 Region High School riding championships in Pendleton. Pictured, from left, are Sarah Addy, Sara Sloop, Kayleigh Gates, Morgan Smerdell, Brooklin Kuipers, Sara Smith, Sara Gates May, Kendall Farmer, Hannah Gates and Isabelle Fralick.

Three Kershaw County teenagers have brought home the Zone 4 Region 4 High School Championship along with their team, Creekside Farm, under the direction of Adrian Mack and Emma Phillips.

Kayleigh Gates, 16, and Hannah Gates, 15, from Camden High School and Morgan Smerdell, 15, from Lugoff-Elgin High School combined with the efforts of teens from across the state to make up the 2014-2015 Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team for Creekside Farm which just last year claimed the National Championship. The competition was held on Saturday, Feb. 7 at the T. Ed Garrison Arena in Pendleton.

Riders competed in Hunt Seat Equitation over Fences classes and Equitation on the Flat classes throughout the day. The IEA format requires that riders compete in unfamiliar tack on unfamiliar mounts; therefore, they draw their horses the day of the competition and enter the arena after a brief, if any, warm-up.

This competition qualifies the team for the Zone 4 Championship to be held in March at Perry, Ga. In order for the team to advance back to the National Finals, their team must ride to a Top 4 finish. The team is the current defending Zone 4 High School Champions.

"The competition at Zones will be tough but we have a really good team, so we hope to draw great horses and ride well enough to advance to Nationals again," said Kayleigh Gates.

Hannah Gates and Smerdell also advanced to zones in the individual classes by placing in the top two of their respective Individual classes. Gates will ride in the individual JV Beginner on the Flat and Smerdell will compete in the Individual Varsity Intermediate Flat and Over Fences.

Kayleigh and Hannah Gates ride and train in Camden at their family farm, The Camden Hunter Barn. Both girls are trained by Emma Phillips of Camden. Smerdell rides and trains under the direction of Lauren Allen of Lugoff.