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The Mountaineer - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
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Averill Saunders wins horse vaulting nationals
By Brittany Willsie
Staff Reporter

At the end of September, 17-year-old Averill Saunders placed first in the most advanced division of horse vaulting nationals, bringing home a national title. 
2021 Canadian Nationals took place Sept. 24 to 26 in Chilliwack, B.C. Saunders competed on her own horse, Mac, or Bold Statement as he is officially known at shows. 
“This was my first time at Nationals competing in the highest division,” Saunders said. 
“Individually, it wasn’t the best competition for me to finish off the year, but I was still happy with the end result. There were just a few mistakes I made that I wish wouldn’t have happened, but overall I was pretty happy. I ended up coming out with my first overall win at nationals, so my first time being able to say that I was the Canadian National Champion.” 
Nationals was Saunders’ first time competing as a senior. 
“It was really cool because I was competing against all of the coaches and lungers that I grew up looking up to in the sport,” she said. 
Competing as a senior also meant that Saunders was more of a role model for younger competitors. 
“I had so many young kids looking up to me, which was always kind of there, but it was definitely a lot more predominant competing as a senior,” she explained. 
Now at the end of the horse vaulting season, Saunders will begin winter training, which involves a lot of cross training. 
“Now it’s kind of just focusing on getting as good as we can for the next season. So that just means more cross training, more meal planning and going into the harder fitness side of the training,” Saunders said. 
All of her training will prepare her for her first world championship as a senior. Saunders recently competed at worlds from July 28 to Aug. 1 in France, breaking a Canadian record for individual women in the junior division by placing ninth. 
The 2022 world championships will take place in Denmark. 
Saunders is a Grade 12 student at Caroline School. As a high-level athlete, Saunders has had to balance her schooling with her training, but she said she has lots of support. 
“It’s definitely had its challenges for sure. I’ve had a huge support system of teachers behind me that have never really given me much grief for missing school. They’re super supportive; they help me get where I need to go.”
Education is still very important to Saunders, who received honours in her high school classes. 
“Post-secondary schooling is really important to me too,” she said.
After high school, Saunders is planning to enter the medical field. She hopes to receive a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences before continuing on to med school. She has her sights set on a surgical field. 
“I’m kind of thinking like orthopaedics or paediatrics right now, but I don’t know. Everything changes so much as you go through your schooling.”