Whangārei has claimed its first North Island showjumping title in 17 years at the North Island championships in Cambridge last weekend.
The annual competition last saw a champion Whangārei team in 2001 but the young group from the Whangārei pony club of McKenzie Dane, 11, Alex Henry, 12, Lily Sutherland, 14, Gaia Aplin, 14, Jacob Jenkins, 17, and Sharon Klijn, 17, dominated the other 27 clubs from day one to win by a 51-point margin.
Clubs Tuakau and Te Kuiti finished in second and third respectively, but were no match for Whangārei's final score of 114, with the team presented with the Aquarius trophy for the win. The Northland club also won the Sue Yearbury trophy, which was awarded to the group with the best team spirit, best-kept attire and the standard of their team presentation.
On Saturday, teams rode in three classes where they could accumulate points based on their ability to clear rails and the speed at which they completed the course. The team was split into three height divisions, 90cm, 1m and 1.1m.
The third and final class proved most successful for the Whangārei team, who won in all three height divisions. Sutherland won in the 1.1m, Jenkins in the 1m, and Dane and Henry took the top two spots in the 90cm to give their team a commanding lead going into the Sunday.
The team capitalised on their results from the first day, performing well in the early rounds. The final round saw riders pair up and each jump six of the 12 rails, with their time recorded and points awarded. The title was confirmed when all Whangārei riders placed high in the top 10 with Henry and Dane winning the 90cm, six seconds quicker then the rest of the field.
"I was pretty stoked and pretty overwhelmed that we, as a team, won," team captain Sharon Klijn said.
"Everyone rode to the best of their ability and it came through at the end."
Klijn, who had attended the competition for the past six years, said her experience meant she was able to guide the younger riders through the tough stages.
"I just made sure that everyone was happy, had a smile on their face and that the horses were well looked after, because that's the main part of pony club."
Both Henry and Sutherland were first-timers at the North Island championships, after they were picked, along with the rest of the team, from a competitive group of local riders, all seeking to take part in the renowned tournament.
Klijn said the two new riders fitted into the team well and she hoped they would return to the event, considering the success they had had at their maiden tournament.
Team coach Jannette Klijn said she was ecstatic to see the club's young riders do so well.
"It was an outstanding result and a very proud moment for everyone involved, manager, coach, mums, dads and all the supporters."
She said winning the club spirit award was just as satisfying as the overall win because it spoke to how the team conducted themselves over the weekend and how they looked after each other and their horses.
In most classes, the difference between first and 10th place were less then two to three seconds in a field of 54 talented riders.
Klijn said there were emotional scenes when the team knew they would be coming away the victors.
"You can imagine the tears we had winning this because it's a result that we are really proud of."