Skidmore Polo Looks to Close Year Strong
Even for a program with a noteworthy history, Skidmore Polo—a varsity club sport open to all students regardless of experience—has had an impressive calendar year. Both the men’s and women’s varsity programs have notched victories over Ivy League competition this fall, the junior varsity and beginner programs have continued to make strides, and a few select players traveled abroad this summer to compete at the international level.
The Skidmore Polo Club is currently comprised of thirty players. Members of the men’s and women’s varsity teams typically have years of playing experience, while those from junior varsity and Varsity B team often have none. Despite a range of experience levels, all the teams have had success on the field this fall; the men’s and women’s varsity teams earned victories over Yale this October and more recently, both women’s squads defeated Virginia Tech.
For the program’s more experienced players—some of whom have competed in Wellington, Florida, which is widely regarded as the polo capital of the United States—playing for Skidmore is a joy. Freshman Liam Lott said, “Skidmore polo has been a breath of fresh air due to the almost complete absence of politics. Everybody is treated equally and given an equal chance to succeed.”
Part of what makes Skidmore’s polo program truly unique, though, is its deep sense of tradition. For example, Skidmore polo runs in the family for current club president and women’s varsity team captain Meggie Danielson. “My dad, Chris Danielson, graduated from Skidmore in ‘86 and played when polo was a varsity sport, and not just a club. My uncle, Rolf Danielson, played JV polo while at Skidmore. In this respect, polo was a hobby I picked up at Skidmore, and with their help, I have played against teams outside of my region, such as UMiami, and trained in Argentina.”
What really distinguishes the club, however, is its international recognition. Junior Rafaela Iturralde, who is originally from Ecuador, said, “When I told my college counselor that I wanted a small school that had horses, she said that Skidmore was the perfect fit for me and she was not mistaken. However, at home (in Ecuador), women’s polo is not big—it’s considered to be a men’s sport, so I never had the opportunity to learn. When I came to Skidmore, I planned on trying out for the riding team, but once I got here, I realized that I felt more comfortable in the polo barn. The atmosphere made me feel more at home.”
Though Iturralde had previous riding experience, she is one of a few members of the team who learned to play polo at Skidmore. Junior and barn manager Alexandria Armstrong says it can be a challenge to teach new players alongside experienced ones, but that it is ultimately rewarding. “Some of the members of the varsity team have been playing polo since they were in high school, and even before then. I started my freshman year at Skidmore, and I still feel as if I have a lot to learn! It sometimes gets frustrating watching people who have been playing for years perfectly execute a swing with their mallet while others can barely touch the ball. However, every member on the polo team understands what it is like to learn a new sport, so we take the time to teach new people so they can succeed.”
Iturralde is not the only member of the team who hails from outside the US; sophomore and current men’s varsity captain Santiago Avendano is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Like Danielson, polo runs in Avendano’s family. “I learned to play polo from family tradition and spent time playing with my father, brothers, and uncles, two of whom play professionally,” he said.
Avendano was also one of the five players to travel this summer to China for an international tournament at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitian Polo Club. Sophomore Aaron Schneider, former captain Charlie Bullis, Iturralde, and Danielson accompanied him. In their side of the draw, Skidmore competed against some familiar Ivy League foes and a few international opponents like Oxford, Cambridge, and a local Chinese team. The team placed 3rd overall, which Avendano considered to be an “excellent” result, especially considering that it was their first time at the tournament. Reflecting on the experience, Schneider said, “The facility was beautiful and absolutely massive, and we also got to explore Beijing and the Great Wall. We are hoping to go back next summer.” Danielson echoed that sentiment, adding, “We are truly proud that Skidmore was represented at the tournament.”
Coach Will Orthwein believes it has been a great year for the program, and he is appreciative of everyone who has made their success possible: “The polo program is lucky to have the generous support of many alumni who come back each year for an alumni game with the seniors on the team. We also have volunteer coaches who donate lots of time and energy to our program.”
The men and women’s polo teams are planning on a strong finish to the fall season by competing against some of the country’s best clubs in the Bill Field Polo Invitational, which will take place November 16th-20th in Ithaca. The teams anticipate more opportunities for success at regional and national tournaments next year, as well as continued development from those new to the sport, and another possible trip to China next summer.