North Marion's Knight wins state equestrian title
North Marion junior Peyton Knight doesn't consider herself a particularly competitive person — unless she's looking in the mirror.
A three-year members of the Huskies' equestrian program, Knight's primary motivation each season is to go out each meet and do better than she did before, regardless of what is going on around her.
"I am competitive with myself," Knight said. "When it comes to other people, I don't really care. It's more, 'Did I feel good about myself?'"
Knight certainly set a new bar for not just herself, but for the North Marion equestrian program as a whole this month, she captured the first In-Hand Trail state title in program history at the 2019 OHSET State Championships on May 9-10 at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond.
Knight scored 177 points, tying for first place with Jenessa Teachout of Sam Barlow. The two scored identical marks of 89 in the first go and 88 in the second go of the event, where riders guide their horse through an obstacle course-like pattern that shows their control and ability to work with the animal.
It's particularly difficult to pull off, as both athlete and animal have to work in tandem to make it through the course without any major slip ups from either one.
"With equestrian, you could literally get perfect in all your practices, but your horse will have one bad day and it's just downhill for that one day," Knight said. "If the horse has a bad day, you still have to go out there and do what you can with it."
Knight was making her first appearance in the event at the state championships this year, where she also qualified individually in the driving event and in freestyle fours, also known as drill.
She placed ninth overall in Driving, with a combined score of 151 (78-73). Between her two finishes in Driving and In-Hand Trail, the North Marion junior scored 28 team points — 17th overall in the individual standings across all classifications, while putting the Huskies in second place in the team standings among mini teams.
After graduating the majority of last year's team, Knight and junior teammate Rebecca Lettenmaier were the two remaining members to come back this season.
"Me and Becca have been friends since middle school, so we knew each other really well," Knight said. "Going into OHSET, it was fun. We had all these older girls, and with them leaving, we realized we were going to have to work a lot harder to earn our spot."
The two had their own events in which they competed individually, but were unable to take part in some of the bigger events that required four teammates to participate.
Fortunately, the equestrian team from nearby Yamhill-Carlton had a similar problem, so the two teams joined together to compete this season. Although it was an awkward situation at first, the four girls — Knight, Lettenmaier, Mikayla Bolte and Mikayla Barnett — developed chemistry quickly, qualifying for the state championships in the freestyle fours. The team placed ninth overall in the event on the first day of competition, scoring 1,676 points to beat out the 10th-place Crater team by 21 points.
Knight recalled her first practice with Bolte and Barnett, where the four riders practiced their pattern together by running through the routine on foot without their horses.
"At first, we were super awkward about it, trying not to get into each other's way, but now we're just bumping into each other and having fun," Knight said. "It's really cool to see. Now they're some of our closest friends."
With her first-place finish in In-Hand Trail, Knight qualifies for the Pacific Northwest Invitational Championship, pitting the best riders in Oregon and Washington against each other in a season finale.
Pacific Northwest Invitational Championship
WHEN: June 14-16
WHERE: Redmond, Oregon