Bainbridge Islander Claire Nitsche competed alongside national equestrian riders this month and finished in the top 10 in the country.
Nitsche has been impressing judges while riding on the Western Washington University Equestrian Team, enough to earn her a spot on a tight list of other riders competing at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s national competition in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 2-5.
Nitsche placed seventh in her division, out of the top 16 riders at the competition.
“The riders there were phenomenal, as well as the level of sportsmanship,” Nitsche said. “I know what mistakes I made during my ride, but to have placed in the top half of my class, or just end up seventh in the country, was amazing.”
It is the first time in the history of Western Washington University’s equestrian team that one of its riders has placed at a national competition.
Nitsche noted the camaraderie and sportsmanship that the riders shared. It was a spirit that she took part in and was proud of her fellow riders.
“The girl who won my class was a senior from Mount Holyoke, and Nationals was her last IHSA show,” she said. “I was really, really happy for her. What a way to finish the season!”
The competition also proved to be a moment of personal triumph for Nitsche.
“I met my own goals with that performance,” she said. “And a few of the top coaches came up to me and told me that minus my small mistakes I would have been in the top four!”