New National Champs Celebrate at Toomer's

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's newest intercollegiate team and newest national championship team won praise at a Monday evening celebration for its performance on and off the field of competition.

The Auburn University women's equestrian team was held up as an example of what is good in intercollegiate athletics by the university's interim president, Dr. Ed Richardson, as well as athletic director Jay Jacobs.

The AU administrators cited an exemplary community service record and a strong academic performance as being strengths of Coach Greg Williams' team, which won a national championship on Friday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico in just its fourth full season of varsity competition after converting from a club team to an athletic department sponsored team.

Williams, who called the victory a "dream come true," says it was a thrill to see his team being honored with a Toomer's Corner celebration on Monday night.

The celebration was complete with the athletes, coaches, administrators, cheerleaders, band and, of course, lots of toilet paper.

Jacobs says the honor is well deserved. "Greg is a guy who has been tireless in his effort to bring this national championship home, a guy who has done it with fewer resources than most of his competitors, but he has had the vision, passion and perseverance to make it happen," Jacobs says.

The equestrian team joins the men's and women's swimming teams as national champions during the academic year. Williams says one of the first calls he received offering congratulations on the championship was from David Marsh, who has won six men's swimming national titles and four women's national titles. "He said be sure to enjoy it," Williams says. "He said they are all fun, but the first one is the best."

Williams says he is particularly proud of how his team became champions.

Coach Greg Williams is shown speaking to the Toomer's Crowd with his competitors in the foreground.

"Winning the national championship is fun--it makes everything more fun," he says. "Some of the things that are really important to us are the comments from other athletes, other coaches and other parents who commented on our girls out there...They said they were a perfect of example of what a team should behave like and be like for their teammates around the arena. I think that is something I can be most proud of."

Williams praised the work of assistant coaches Lindsey Neubarth, who coaches the western riders, and Joanna Booker, who handles the hunt seat riders. He notes that a variety of competitors came through in the clutch to make the national title possible. "If we had even the slightest bobble, everybody would jump in," Williams says. "They played as a team. I couldn't be more proud of these girls."

Senior Kelly Gottfried spoke on behalf of the team and received a big cheer from the Toomer's Corner crowd. She was the final rider whose performance put the Tigers over the top to win the national championship.

Kelly Gottfried spoke at Toomer's Corner on Monday evening.

"It came down to our senior, Kelly," Williams notes. "All she said was, ‘Don't worry, it's done.'" After a rider from Georgia scored 85 points, Gottfried needed 120 points for AU to be champions, a very challenging score to reach on a demanding horse on a demanding course, but she did that and more with 160 points to put the Tigers over the top.

"Obviously what the swim team has done has had a rippling effect throughout the athletic department," Jacobs says. "Our women's golf team shot a record round on Sunday at Ohio State and will have a chance to compete for a national championship. The job Kim Evans has done in golf is unbelievable. Ralph Spry has done a great job in track and Tommy Slater's baseball team is coming along. When it rains it pours, and I mean that in a good way. Expectations increase and confidence increases and I hope we will have more of these celebrations."

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