ATHENS, Ga. --- University of Georgia head equestrian coach Meghan Boenig has announced that 12 riders have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their riding careers and education at UGA beginning in the 2023-24 school year. The signees include: Lyla Bellar of Peru, Indiana, Kennedy Buchanan of Scottsdale, Arizona, Jordyn Budzynski of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Parker Cliff of Folsom, California, Liza Cram of Aiken, South Carolina, Sarina Da Cruz of East Northport, New York, Tessa Downey of Houston, Texas, Cadence Eger of Marysville, Ohio, Madison Hill of Germantown, Tennessee, Madison Nadolenco of Calabasas, California,Devin VanZanten of Lynden, Washington, and Abigail Zawisza of Findlay, Ohio. "What an amazing, talented, and passionate class," Boenig said.
"We see a well-rounded group of women who are already combining elite performance in both the classroom, locker room, and competition arena. What makes them stand out is the breadth of experience they bring to the team, not only in multiple championships but in already embodying the spirit of the Georgia Way.
They pursue excellence in all they do as a rider, a teammate, and a scholar. We cannot wait for their brilliant future in Athens as we know that they will continue to make us stride for more. Coach Becker and Coach Lantz continue to recruit at the highest level from one coast to the next. This class is indicative of continued excellence at Georgia." Lyla Bellar | Western | Peru, Indiana Lyla Bellar signs to be a Bulldog after back-to-back AQHYA Reserve World Champion placings in the 14-18 Trail.
She finished third at the All American Quarter Horse Congress 15-18 Showmanship, was named the NSBA World Champion 14-18 showmanship, and the NSBA World Show Top 5 14-18 Trail and Horsemanship in 2022. Additionally in 2021, Bellar placed AQHYA Top 5 Level 2 14-18 Horsemanship. "Lyla brings an incredible amount of passion and excitement to this Georgia team," Western assistant coach McKenzie Lantz Breuker said.
"She has had her eyes set on Georgia Equestrian and in true Bulldog fashion she worked hard to make her dream a reality. Her work ethic, drive and coach-ability are just some of the traits that we are so looking forrward to. Lyla has seen incredible success in several events, making her a fierce well-rounded competitor.
A product of the great Georgia Alum, Carly Parks, we know that her blood runs red and black and we cannot wait to see all that she accomplishes during her time in Athens." Kennedy Buchanan | Western | Scottsdale, Arizona Kennedy Buchanan signs with Georgia after being crowned the NRBC Unrestricted Youth Circuit Champion and the NRBC 14-18 Reserve Highpoint Circuit Champion in 2022.
In 2021, she was the Best Of The West Non-Pro Derby Level 1 Reserve Champion, AQHA Youth Reining Top 10 Year End High Point, and Sun Circuit Rookie Level 1&2 Champion. Additionally, Buchanan finished Top 10 at the 2020 NRHA Futurity North American Affiliate Championship 14-18 and was named champion at the NRHA Southwest Regional Affiliate Championships Youth 14-18 that same year. "Kennedy is someone who will bring a great amount of knowledge and experience to our team," Coach Lantz said.
"She is no stranger to collegiate equestrian with a sister who currently rides at TCU. She carries herself with such poise and humility, I am very much looking forward to coaching her. Her experience both in the NRHA and IEA will prove to be an advantage for her collegiate career. Kennedy completely embodies the Georgia Way and we cannot wait to see all of her success as a Bulldog!" Jordyn Budzynski | Western | Collegeville, Pennsylvania Jordyn Budzynski signs to be a Bulldog after being a six-time IEA National Qualifier.
In 2022 Budzynski was a IEA National Champion in the Varsity Intermediate Reining, IEA Regional Highest Point Earner in the Varsity Open Reining, and IEA Reserve National Champion in the Varsity Open Reining. She was Top 5 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in the Youth 13 and Under Reining in 2019. "Jordyn comes to Georgia having had an incredible career both in the NRHA as well as the IEA," Coach Lantz said.
"Her ability to already successfully catch-ride horses is sure to be an advantage at Georgia. Jordyn is very academically driven and holds a true passion for everything that she does. She is not afraid to work and has proven to be determined to go after her goals. We are looking forward to welcoming Jordyn to Athens and seeing all the success that will unfold for her as a Bulldog!" Parker Cliff | Jumping Seat | Folsom, California Parker Cliff signs with UGA with top Talent Search placings and was a member of the Zone 10 Junior Young Riders Team in 2019.
In 2022 she was Reserve Champion 3'3 Small Junior Hunter Finals and placed fourth in the 3'3 Large Junior Hunter Finals, both at Blenheim. Additionally in 2022, Cliff was the NorCal Finals Reserve Champion at the Sac International and a two-time Champion National Hunter Derby at the HMI Murieta. "Parker is such a talented rider - and in all three rings (hunters, jumpers, and the equitation)," assistant Jumping Seat coach Anna Becker Destro said.
"Not only has she found lots of varied success competing, but she also boasts an incredibly impressive GPA. Her ability to win in and out of the classroom stood out to us, along with her work ethic. We are confident that she will bring a lot to our team with her positive attitude and work ethic. We are looking forward to the depth that she brings to Georgia Equestrian and seeing her continue to thrive here in Athens!" Liza Cram | Jumping Seat | Aiken, South Carolina Liza Cram signs with Georgia after finishing Top 24 at the ASPCA Maclay Finals, 12th WEC Premier Equitation Cup, Reserve Champion at the Capital Challenge, and 10th at Maclay Regionals in 2022.
She also won two national derbies- in March 2021 and March 2022. Cram was the Champion in Childrens Hunters in June 2021 at the WCHR week at the Saratoga Horse Show and placed third at the NAL Childrens Jumper Finals at the Capital Challenge in 2020. "Liza brings so much passion and commitment to the sport of Equestrian, as she comes from an incredible, invested horse family," Coach Becker said.
"She is very talented and able to ride any horse she gets on; which is a great step towards a successful college riding career. She not only is a beautiful and accomplished rider, but she also excels in the classroom and is dedicated to her academic career. Liza's life-long experience as a rider and with her family's business will definitely set her up to be a great addition to Georgia Equestrian and I am excited to see what she accomplishes on our team!" Sarina Da Cruz | Jumping Seat | East Northport, New York Sarina Da Cruz signs with UGA after placing third at the USHJA Medal Finals Flat Phase and finishing 45thoverall at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in 2022.
During WEF in 2021, Da Cruz scored her first score of 92. She has numerous top placings in equitation and hunters throughout her juniors career. "Sarina is one of the hardest workers amongst riders her age," Coach Becker said. "As a working student, she has learned to put the needs of the horses before herself and is a true horsewoman.
All of her work did not go unnoticed by us, and we know that she will thrive here on this team because of that work ethic and passion. She is a beautiful and strong rider, and has had experience on all different types of horses throughout her career. She is a very positive and hardworking young lady, and we can't wait for her to be a part of our team!" Tessa Downey | Jumping Seat | Houston, Texas Tessa Downey signs to be a Bulldog after a third place finish at the ASPCA Maclay Finals in 2022.
She was a Zone 7 Team Gold and Individual Silver at the 2022 Prix des States. She finished Top 12 at the 2022 USET Finals and fourth at the 2021 WIHS Equitation Finals. In 2021 she was Top 25 Maclay Finals and Medal Finals. "Tessa is possibly one of the fiercest competitors out there," Coach Becker said.
"When she enters the ring you know that she is in it to win it, and that is definitely a special quality to have. Not only is she an incredible rider and competitor, but she is also a very impressive young woman in the classroom. Her academics combined with her history of winning at a high level prove that she will be a standout in college riding.
Tessa is one of the most mature student-athletes I have met at her age, and I know that she will bring great leadership to this team as well. I am so glad that she chose Georgia, and know that she will be a great addition to this team!" Cadence Eger | Western | Marysville, Ohio Cadence Eger signs to come to UGA with two Quarter Horse Congress wins under her belt.
She won the 13 and under Reining in 2019 and the 14-18 Reining in 2021. Eger won the Buckeye Reining Series Derby Level 2 and 4 in 2020. She has numerous reining and horsemanship wins for the Future Intermediate Team and individual classes withing the IEA, including a nationals win in 2018. Additionally, she has won some Non-Pro Reining classes since 2020. "Cadence has an abundance of show experience both in the NRHA and IEA starting at an early age," Coach Lantz said.
"She has excelled greatly in catch-riding horses and has seen huge success aboard her own. Cadence is a fierce competitor and comes to Georgia with a huge passion to be successful at anything that she does. There is never a moment where she is not living life to the fullest and we are excited to bring that energy to Athens.
Cadence is sure to have a great four years as a Bulldog!" Madison Hill | Jumping Seat | Germantown, Tennessee Madison Hill signs to be a Bulldog after qualifying and competing in USEF Medal Finals five times as well as the ASPCA Maclay Finals three times. She placed fourth in the 17 year old Medal Finals Warm-Up at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and Reserve Champion in the 15-17 year old equitation at the Kentucky National Horse Show in 2022.
She finished as Reserve Champion in the 1.25 Junior Jumpers at the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in 2021. "Madison is an absolute pleasure to be around, and such a positive and hard-working young lady," Coach Becker said. "The moment I met her on her visit I knew that she was someone who would fit in great here at Georgia.
Her trainers and peers have done nothing but gush about her work ethic and drive in this sport, and I know that will suit her well in college. On top of all of that, she is an outstanding rider with outstanding grades as well. I know that she will bring a lot to this team and fit in right away here at Georgia Equestrian!" Madison Nadolenco | Jumping Seat | Calabasas, California Madison Nadolenco signs with Georgia after finishing Top 24 ASPCA Maclay Finals in 2022.
She places first 2021 USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic – West and the CPHA Foundation Finals, as well as at the 2020 R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship in 2020. "Madi is a true standout student-athlete," Coach Becker said. "Not only is she an incredibly talented rider, but she is also a very competitive basketball player and a top student in the classroom.
Her drive to be the best, in all things, does not go unnoticed. It definitely makes her a force to be reckoned with in the arena. Madi was our first commit of the 2023 class, and her passion for all things Georgia is already next level. I am so excited for her to finally be in Athens and see what she can accomplish when she brings her passion, commitment, and talent to this team!" Devin VanZanten | Western | Lynden, Washington Devin VanZanten signs with UGA after placing fifth in novice horsemanship, fourth in novice showmanship, and Reserve World Champion in Novice Western Riding at the 2022 NSBA World Show.
She was a Level 1 Non-Pro all around, Level 1 Youth all around, Circuit Champion Level 1 horsemanship and showmanship, and Reserve Level 1 equitation at the 2022 Arizona Sun Circuit. Also in 2022, VanZanten was the Circuit Champ Level 1 horsemanship, Reserve Level 2 horsemanship, and Circuit Champion Youth Western Riding at the EMO Championships. "Devin is a fierce competitor that has seen a huge amount of success both in the arena and the classroom," Coach Lantz said.
"Hailing from the west coast, we are excited to have her join the Bulldog family. Devin is passionate, hardworking, and extremely humble. She will bring a wealth of knowledge and skills that will make her a great asset in Athens. We are looking forward to seeing her sport the Red and Black!" Abigail Zawisza | Western | Findlay, Ohio Abigail Zawisza signs to be a Bulldog after being a three-time NSBA World Champion, two-time NSBA Reserve World Champion, as well as two-time NSBA World Show Bronze Champion.
Additionally, she has two APHA World Champion nods and one APHA Reserve World Champion to her name. Zawisza competed at the APHA Youth World Games with Team USA in Germany, bringing home the gold. She was a Reserve Congress Champion in Green Reiner Level 2 in 2022 and finished fifth in the Level 3 Horsemanship at the AQHYA World Show in 2021.
Zawisza finished first in OQHA's year-end standings for Youth 14-18 Horsemanship and Equitation in 2021. She was the IEA National Champion Open Horsemanship in 2021, Reserve National Champion Open Reining in 2020, and National Champion Future Intermediate Horsemanship and Reining in 2019. "Abbey's commitment to her athletic and academic career is incredible," Coach Lantz said.
"She has already completely indulged herself in the Georgia way and we cannot be more excited to welcome her to Athens. In true Bulldog fashion Abbey is a bright light to everyone around her, she has a work ethic we all hope for and is such a pleasure to be around! She has seen an abundance of success both in Horsemanship and Reining and we know her future is bright in Red and Black!"