May 4, 2006
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin equestrian coach Leigh Heusner announced Thursday the addition of six student-athletes to her program. Kayle Bernal, Kyra Cruse, Jessica Weaver, Kristin Landes, Randi Spencer and Tara Solbrig have all signed national letters of intent with SFA and will join the Ladyjack equestrian team in the fall.
"This recruiting class represents top-level riders from across the nation," Heusner said. "We are thrilled to bring them here to compete for SFA. They all bring new talent and excitement to the program. This should be a very strong group of competitors."
The 2006 class is a balanced mix of talent that includes one local rider, as well as competitors from as far away as California, Virginia and Colorado. Three of the riders will compete in the western disciplines, while the other three are expected to ride English for the Ladyjacks.
Bernal hails from Huntington Beach, Calif., where she is a senior at Mater Dei High School. The western specialist is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association and the California Reining Horse Association. She was part of the first-place team at the 2002 Western Affiliate Finals Youth Team Tournament and also qualified for the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show. In 2003, Bernal served as treasurer for the National Reining Horse Youth Association. She is the daughter of Crystal and Don Bernal.
"Kayle is a proven reining competitor," Heusner said. "She has won often in the Quarter Horse and Reining Horse Associations. She has an outgoing personality and a confidence about her that, combined with her riding talents, will make her such an asset to our team."
Cruse is one of only two Texans in the group. The Pilot Point native is a nine-year show veteran in the Appaloosa Association. According to Heusner, she has competed and won at the national level in that organization. Cruse is the daughter of Karen Scareberry and Steve Cruse and will ride western for the Ladyjacks.
"Kyra grew up showing and training horses," Heusner said. "She has years of experience in the show arena and knows about the hard work it takes to be successful in the horse industry. The transition for her into collegiate equestrian should come easily."
The third western rider in this year's class is a local product. Jessica Weaver, a Nacogdoches native and senior at Central Heights, has experienced success in multiple horse-showing organizations. She has shown successfully at both the Congress and World level of the Quarter Horse Association. Weaver has also competed in horsemanship, reining, cutting, roping and working cow horse and has showed in multiple cutting horse world shows. Jessica's parents are Cindi and Howard Weaver.
"Jessica has competed successfully for years in many different associations," Heusner said. "She is a very talented young lady, and I think she could do just about anything you asked her to with a horse. She has won in horse judging competitions, horsemanship, reining, cutting, roping, and the list goes on and on. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she will do as a Ladyjack next year."
Landes will give the SFA English team an East Coast flavor. The Dayton, Va., product won the 2005 Pony Medal Finals of the Southwest Virginia Hunter/Jumper Association. Landes also played soccer and ran track for her high school teams at Turner Ashby High. She is the daughter of Patti and Timothy Landes.
"Kristin is a very effective and stylistic hunt seat rider," Heusner said. "The years she has spent riding various mounts from her family's Virginia breeding farm have adequately prepared her for the varsity equestrian format. She should be a strong contender over fences, as well as on the flat."
Spencer is one of two English riders in the class who hail from Colorado. The Longmont native is a senior at Niwot High School. She has won division championships and placed in the Medal Finals of the Colorado Hunter/Jumper Association. Spencer's parents are Debbie and Mark Spencer.
"Randi is a talented rider with experience showing in the equitation, hunter and jumper divisions in Colorado," Heusner said. "She shows natural confidence on a variety of horses. Not only does Randi shine in the show arena, but she excels in the classroom, as well. She is a motivated student and athlete who will bring a lot of strength to our team."
Broomfield, Colo., product Tara Solbrig rounds out the 2006 recruiting class. The English specialist has won junior jumper and junior hunter championships while competing in the Colorado Hunter/Jumper Association and United States Equestrian Federation shows. Tara is the daughter of Mary Ann and Wayne Solbrig.
"Tara comes to SFA with numerous awards from showing hunters, jumpers and equitation in Colorado," Heusner said. "She has a quietness about her that hides an intense competitor within. Her dedication and desire to succeed will be a benefit to the team, both in and out of competition."
The six signees will join a fledgling program that just completed its inaugural season at SFA. The Ladyjacks competed in 15 shows during the 2005-06 season. SFA came within 23 points of knocking off defending NCAA national champion South Carolina in its final varsity-format show of the season.
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