BIG HORN — Olivia Uechtritz didn’t play competitive polo until last year, but she has learned the game quickly. The Dallas native was a member of the winning team and was named an All-Star at the A-Flight National Youth Tournament Series Sunday afternoon at the Big Horn Equestrian Center.
Three teams competed in the round-robin tournament, which was open to anyone ages 19 and younger. Each team played the other two teams in short, two-chukker games.
Uechtritz scored two goals in the championship game for R. R. Williams, which defeated Hammer Chevrolet 4-2 to take home the title. Hammer Chevrolet led 2-1 after the first chukker, but R.R. Williams responded with three goals in the final seven minutes. Harry Caldwell scored both goals for Hammer Chevrolet.
In the first matchup, Hammer Chevrolet downed Sheridan Seed Company 3-1 after tallying three goals in the second chukker, the deciding score coming from Carter Nix. In the next game, R.R. Williams defeated Sheridan Seed Company 1-0 thanks to a goal from Fernando Torres in the first chukker.
Five players received All-Star designations, which means they have a chance to compete in the NYTS championships later this year in Denver. Uechtritz and Lucas Arellano from R.R. Williams were All-Stars, along with Malia Bryan and Miki Astrada from Hammer Chevrolet and Aiden Meeker from Sheridan Seed Company.
Arellano did most of his work on defense throughout the day for R.R. Williams, thwarting several promising goal opportunities for his opponents. He also scored a goal against Hammer Chevrolet.
Arellano said the team came out a little hesitant against Hammer Chevrolet but recovered well in the second chukker.
“We came back hard and just hit and ran and trusted each other to make the right plays,” Arellano said. “We were always backing each other up.”
Polo runs in the Arellano family. Lucas Arellano has ridden horses nearly his entire life and has been coming to Sheridan for at least the past 12 summers. His father, Julio Arellano, is a professional polo player and his mother and grandfather played as well.
Lucas Arellano said working in tandem with horses is his favorite part.
“They allow you to use their legs to just take the sport up another notch,” Arellano said. “The thing that separates the best (players) from below is how they work with the horses. Whether they’re fighting their horses or whether they know their horses and know how to play them and use them to their best ability.”
Uechtritz also began riding horses at age 3. When she decided to try polo, Uechtritz had already mastered the riding portion, but it took a little while to learn proper mallet work and all the rules and regulations.
This year is Uechtritz’s second summer competing in Big Horn. She will compete in a few other competitions around the country and also take part in a women’s tournament in France later this year. Uechtritz said the best part is the excitement that comes with riding horses.
“That’s my favorite part, just the power and speed of the horses,” Uechtritz said. “You’re going fast, you have control of the horse but at the same time you don’t. It’s really a lot of adrenaline, really a thrill.”
Sunday, Uechtritz and her teammates were in full control, leading to the thrilling championship victory.