Allegra Kurtz-Rossi ’15 has been riding horses since she was 11 years old, but she had never participated in a national equestrian competition until last spring as a member of the Wheaton Equestrian Team.
Her first gallop into the national arena paid off big time. Competing against representatives from more than 100 schools, Kurtz-Rossi placed 10th in the nation in the walk-trot-canter category of the 2013 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals held last spring in Harrisburg, Pa.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Kurtz-Rossi, who this year is one of the equestrian team’s captains. “I had never competed in such a large horse show before, so I was pretty nervous, especially being the only representative for Wheaton’s team.”
Kurtz-Rossi had qualified to show at the nationals by becoming the champion in her division at the New England regional finals held at Mount Holyoke College last spring.
“Competing against the best riders in our zone, I was not expecting to place first or second, which you must get in order to go to nationals,” she says. “You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I placed first.”
A chemistry major, the equestrian is no stranger to taking on and successfully working through challenges: “Until college, AP chemistry was the most difficult and time-consuming class I had ever taken, but I still loved it, and that was when I knew I should pursue chemistry,” says Kurtz-Rossi, who has worked as a lab assistant for Associate Professor of Chemistry Thandi Buthelezi.
“Chemistry is one of the only subjects I enjoy even when it is extremely difficult. After I graduate, I hope to get a Ph.D. in chemistry.”
It is that kind of fearlessness that helped Kurtz-Rossi get to the nationals, and brought her a top 10 placement in the tough competition, former equestrian team coach Amanda Hare points out.
“She was one of only three riders in the top 10 who came from a smaller riding program like Wheaton’s. The other seven out of the top 10 riders were from schools that have all won a National Collegiate Team Championship at some point,” Hare says.
“We had a clear game plan and strategy as to how we were going to ride in order to get noticed, and she executed that plan beautifully. For a rider who had never even competed in a rated horse show before coming to college, she kept her cool and performed beautifully.”
Wheaton’s equestrian team, a club sport, has enjoyed a great deal of success recently, with five Wheaton riders making it to nationals during the past decade, under the guidance of Hare. (Hare recently stepped down as coach to spend more time with her family. She currently holds an administrative role for the team.)
Hare recalls being impressed by Kurtz-Rossi’s skills from the day she saw her ride during the team’s first practice session. “Allegra has grown so much over the past two seasons from a nervous and timid rider into a fierce competitor.”
Says Kurtz-Rossi: “I would never have gotten to nationals without the great coaching I had from Amanda and [former assistant coach] Anna [Machonis], and the support for my riding that my parents give me.”