Cutline: Photos courtesy of Brittany Thorpe, graphic by Skip Smith: The Eatonville High School equestrian team class of 2020 began practice in September and had one meet this year before the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cutline: Photos courtesy of Brittany Thorpe, graphic by Skip Smith: The Eatonville High School equestrian team class of 2020 began practice in September and had one meet this year before the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the third installment in a series of articles in the coming weeks where I will be spotlighting the Eatonville High School spring sports seniors who have had their seasons cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A different team will be the focus each week. This is just my way of honoring these amazing student athletes since they can’t be out there playing the sports they love, and I can’t be out their watching and reporting on them. – Skip Smith

This week the spotlight will be on the seniors from the Eatonville High School equestrian team: Emma Eliassen, Taylor Gillespie, Cassidy Long, Chloe Miller, Bella Monta, Alexis Pattison, Victoria Peterson, Sophi Phelan, Ashlynn Plumlee, Lily Safko and Zach Shackelford.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to attend any of the equestrian meets in the past, and the team only had one this season before everything was cancelled for the year. I was looking forward to learning more about the sport and meeting all the riders.

The team competes in District 2. Schools competing in District 2 along with Eatonville are Bethel, Castle Rock, La Center, Twin Valley, White River and Yelm.

I had the pleasure of getting information on each senior from their coaches.

“The kids worked so hard starting in September, working with their horses on cold, rainy and, sometimes, snowy dark nights,” adviser Tira Hancock said. “They deeply care for their animals and train wholeheartedly September through February. They were able to compete at one meet in February before the statewide ban on large group activities occurred. The seniors will be honored by the team with a special recognition ceremony once social-distancing parameters are lifted. Below is a very brief statement about each senior on the team. They all deserve pages and pages of recognition. They truly have earned it this year and all the years they have spent working and training with their horses and teammates.”

EMMA ELIASSEN

“During her first year she was shy but determined to give it her all,” Hancock said. “You could see her confidence starting to rise in each practice. I really feel that she rose to the occasion and did her best. [She was] always open to instruction that I would give her. I really think she was coming into being in a great place with her horses that she loved so much. I can't wait to see how she grows in her future.”

TAYLOR GILLESPIE

“True grit! That girl sets her mind to something, and there's no stopping her! Not only is she a talented rider, but she paints as well. It's been fun watching her skills evolve.”

CASSIDY LONG

“Cassidy is a coach’s dream student. Not only is she fun to be around, but she always comes in with a plan, asks lots of questions and requests homework. She is an amazing athlete and seems to balance her studies, as well. She added games to her list last year. Before that she had just done performance. She has exceeded all expectations. I look forward to seeing her at future competitions, as well.”

CHLOE MILLER

“Chloe always has a smile on her face and has a contagious laugh. She is always willing to try new things and is a wonderful rider. [She is] very responsive to her horse's needs, and even fresh off the track, TB had a very promising WAHSET (Washington High School Equestrian Teams) year against the seasoned horses.”

BELLA MONTA

“Bella was one of the drill team captains this year. Not only is she very competitive, but her team spirit is one of the best. She is quick to comfort a teammate when they're down and one of the first to loan a horse if needed. Having her on the team was definitely a fantastic asset.”

ALEXIS PATTISON

“You can see that smile from a mile away. She also was one of the drill team captains this year. Full of team spirit, she was always quick to step in and offer assistance if needed.”

VICTORIA PETERSON

“I wish she would have joined WAHSET her freshman year. I have only gotten to know her as a senior but what an amazing person. She takes everything in stride with no worries and just has a good time. It's been fun watching her and her little paint horse grow as a team.”

SOPHI PHELAN

“Sophi was one of three drill captains this year. Although not big on words, she was gigantic in action. The competitive and fighting spirit she has made her fun to watch at competitions.”

ASHLYNN PLUMLEE

“This girl has a heart of gold. Both rider and horse struggled with injuries last year. This year, they were coming back with a vengeance. She also is a fabulous welder.”

LILY SAFKO

“Although I wasn't one of her main coaches this year, she is leasing the horse at my barn. Over the last year she has truly blossomed as an individual. Watching her work and ride Navarre at practices and competitions has shown how far she has come. I was really excited to watch her in dressage and jumping this year.”

ZACK SHACKELFORD

“Zack is always eager to ride new horses. I've never seen him turn down a challenge, even if it's just to win some gummy bears. His charismatic personality and big smile always keep practice fun. He will be a fun one to follow at future barrel races. He's got his hands full with some good horses up and coming. Knowing his patience level and his hard work ethic, he will not disappoint.”