The 2023 Autumn Challenge took place at Little Bentley Polo Grounds in Essex by kind permission of Mr Fred Robinson. It was a wonderful weekend, bathed in sunshine and it was fantastic to have a polocrosse tournament back in East Anglia after a long break.
Pony Club and UKPA members travelled from around the UK to take part, including a junior section who flew in from Northern Ireland, and they were treated to a well organised weekend on a fabulous pitch with commentary throughout the weekend. It was also great to see how many of the players were from within East Anglia, with about half of the players being from within the area, showing just how much the sport has grown in Area 8 over the last few years. This growth has meant it is possible to hold an event in the area, as there are enough local players for the competition and also volunteers to help run it.
The Junior grade featured four Pony Club sections and was won by the mixed team of the Wildcats, which was made up on Tegan Lowry (North Northumberland), Connie Fitton (Suffolk Hunt) and Sammy Westerling (Essex and Suffolk) with the Area 6 team of Zara Stafford, Ava Lambert and Olivia Sharp in second place.
In the Minis grade there was a mixture of 10 Open Minis and Novice Minis players, so the players played in mixed teams on the Saturday and then played a Novice Minis and Open Minis final on the Sunday. The Novice Minis was won by the Area 8 team of Elli May Baskerville, Raiya Martin and Katarina Westerling, who beat Walpole and District’s team of Izzy Hardy, Mia Freegard and Daisy King in the final. The Open Minis was won by the “Blue” team of Perdy Gale, Oliver Winter and Mia Freegard. They overcame the “Black” team of Olivia Sharp, Ava Lambert and Ellie-May Baskerville in a hard fought final by 5 goals to 4.
The High goal competition saw some great action, with each of the four team having an established A grade player and then some younger, up and coming players joining them. It was won by the Titans team of Jack Brown, Xanthe Goodman and Hannah Davitt, who narrowly defeated the Spartans team of Izzy Baker Creswell, Ethan Campbell and Millie Dacosta Evans by golden goal in the decisive match. The Spartans team was the highest placed full Pony Club team, though it was great to see that of the 12 players in the grade 8 were current Pony Club members with three of the others being former members.
The Medium Goal was won by the Essex and Suffolk team of Taryn Tinker, Ollie Rowbotham and Olivia Kirkham, who were all still young enough to play in Juniors but defeated the other teams they were up against to win the overall grade and also win best Pony Club team in the grade.
The Low Goal was won by Kent Target of Eloise Kirkham, Doug Kirkham and Michael Rowbotham, who defeated both the Limemere and the Saxons teams in their Round Robin matches.
In addition to the team awards, there were also a few individual awards, with Millie Dacosta Evans and Sammy Westerling winning the two best overall Pony Club player prizes and a number of Pony Club players throughout the grade won “Shining star” awards for their performances over the weekend.
There were also the Best Horse and Best Pony Prizes, which were awarded to Wasabi (Alice Bolton) in the Senior Grades, Harry (Connie Fitton) in the Juniors and Sonny (Ava Lambert) in the Minis. Rev (Sammy Westerling) won the best overall horse prize.
Overall it was a great weekend with some fantastic polocrosse being played and a relaxed atmosphere throughout. It was brilliant to see how much the the players have developed this year and we look forwards to seeing them continue to develop next year.
Best Overall Horse – Rev (Sammy Westerling)
Best Senior Horse – Wasabi (Alice Bolton)
Best Junior Horse – Harry (Connie Fitton)
Best Minis Pony – Sonny (Ava Lambert)
Best Overall Players – Millie Dacosta Evans and Sammy Westerling
Shining Stars Awards – Elli May Baskerville, Oliver Winter, Maggie Flower, Eloise Kirkham, Olivia Kirkham, Alfie Vollans, Hannah Davitt and Connie Fitton
1st) Area 8 – Ellie May Baskerville (South Norfolk), Raiya Martin (Suffolk Hunt) and Katarina Westerling (Essex and Suffolk)
2nd) Walpole and District – Mia Freegard, Izzy Hardy and Daisy King
1st) Blues – Perdy Gale (Burghley Hunt), Oliver Winter (Burton Hunt) and Mia Freegard (Walpole and District)
2nd) Blacks – Ava Lambert (Burghley Hunt), Olivia Sharp (Belvoir Hunt) and Elli-May Baskerville (South Norfolk)
1st) Wildcats – Connie Fitton (Suffolk Hunt), Tegan Lowry (North Northumberland) and Sammy Westerling (Essex & Suffolk)
2nd) Area 6 – Olivia Sharp (Belvoir Hunt), Ava Lambert (Burghley Hunt) and Zara Stafford (Burghley Hunt)
3rd) Area 8 – Maggie Flower (Essex Hunt North), Lola Flower (Essex Hunt North) and Toby Milner (Suffolk Hunt)
4th) North Down – Max Lewis, Mia Lewis and Eloise Keers
1st) Kent Target – Eloise Kirkham (Essex and Suffolk), Doug Kirkham and Michael Rowbotham
2nd) Limemere – Tim Bachelor, Keeley Rock (North Warwickshire) and Jack Bailey
3rd) Saxons – Stella Stearn (Suffolk Hunt), Matt Stearn and Neil Hinkinson
1st) Essex and Suffolk – Taryn Tinker, Ollie Rowbotham, Olivia Kirkham
2nd) Eagles – Amanda Wasdell, Alfie Vollans (Llangeinor) and Andy Garrow
3rd) – Limemere – Teemu Helve, Tim James and Gill James
1st) Titans – Jack Brown, Xanthe Goodman (East Essex) and Hannah Davitt (Deanswood EC)
2nd) Spartans – Izzy Baker Cresswell (Percy Hunt), Millie Dacosta Evans (North Northumberland) and Ethan Campbell (Morpeth Hunt)
3rd) Romans – Ed Flower, Alice Bolton and Kiki Flower (Essex Hunt North)
4th) Vikings – Chris Milburn, Seona McCredie (Essex and Suffolk) and Jack Page (Essex Farmers)