The AVA Mentor of the Year award recognizes individuals who have made an extraordinary effort to nurture the vaulting community in many different ways.
Kelley Holly, Petaluma, CA
Kelley started riding at age 3 and has been involved with many different disciplines. She has competed in Saddle Seat, Western, Hunter Jumpers and Basic Dressage. After high school she attended UC Davis and actively participated in their equestrian center's program as a rider and instructor. Kelley revitalized the UC Davis vaulting team and continued to work on her own vaulting team at home on the weekends. She holds all medals up through and including a Gold. As for her education, she earned a masters in education and administration, Certification as CHA master instructor (English and Western), USEF and AVA "r" judge and is currently waiting to be approved as a steward at the FEI level. She is truly an educator of horses and vaulters.
Patti Skipton, Warm Beach, Washington
Patti's vaulters can be found on the top of the regional and national podiums, but they can also be found cheering on their competition, helping set up before competitions and helping break things down after, helping with the horses and younger vaulters, and generally just being the nicest bunch of vaulters you're likely to meet. She has provided her horses and training to vaulters from around the world and has, almost single handedly, doubled the number of vaulters in the Pacific Northwest. Kind and nurturing, Patti encourages vaulters to meet her high standards with compassionate hearts and sound minds.
Jennifer Williams (AVA r), Laurel, MD
Jen started vaulting at the age of 12 or 13 in 1983 under the coaching of Carol Fuller. In 1987 Jen was basing and ìradiating confidenceî to those who depended on her to keep them safe. In 1988 she earned her gold medal and was off of college at Virginia Tech. Jen vaulted in the first recognized competition on the East Coast. When she returned back to the Great Falls Area after college she became a coach and lounger for Great Falls, exhibiting great patience, kindness and encouragement to all. In 1998 at the age of 28, Jen became an AVA small r judge. She has served the AVA as a Board Member, Regional Supervisor, and General Secretary. Her vaulters, parents and the rest of us in the vaulting community as well as her horses Murphy know that when she is coaching, judging or at the end of the longe line, all is well.
Marianne Rose, Saratoga, CA
Marianne started in the sport in 1979 as a mom. Her daughter vaulted for about six years and moved on but Marianne stayed on. She started by helping with horse grooming, moved on to longeing and then took on some coaching duties. With her best equine partner, Pegasus, she coached thousands of beginners. She worked with Judy Bryer to implement the first AVA scoring computer program. As a graphic artist she designed the AVA logo, designed and produced many of the AVA publications including flyers and books and she has produced and edited Vaulting World magazine for a decade or so. She also manages competitions (CVI*,** Saratoga, Nationals, Garrods, etc.) and helps with other local fests. A former VP Promotions/Publicity and VP Competitions, she continues to serve on the AVA Board.
Connie Geisler, Diamond Bar, CA
We start out "just being a MOM" of a vaulter. It is not long before we find ourselves immersed in the sport and it takes us in directions that we never imagined. Connie Geisler has been around the vaulting community for about 24 years. She took her daughter, Pam, to an event at the local barn and discovered vaulting. Within a year she was longeing for a tiny tot team of boys including her younger son, Kenny. Her children continued to vault and showed talent as a rising stars. When their club closed, Connie found herself as the coach and longeur of a brand new club: Diamond Bar Country Vaulters. She has referred to herself as the coach/longeur/horse owner/trainer/manager/groom/mucker/chief cook and bottlewasher. She extends herself to other clubs and drives many composite teams of all levels. She is a mentor to her vaulters, her horses and the AVA. Carol Beutler
"Only those who dare to go to far know how far they really can go." Connie Geisler
Christine Appel-Bucierka, Chantilly, VA
Christine attended her first Nationals in 1982 as a team alternate. She organized and ran the first AVA recognized competition on the East Coast. She has been a major contributor to the sport of vaulting in Region IX by putting together composite teams, presenting vaulting at equestrian events, doing demonstrations, and grooming new clubs, coaches and vaulters. Throughout the years she has taught literally hundreds of vaulters. "Chris has a way of making children feel comfortable with all the vaulters as well as the horses." Tom Haynie "Vaulting became the focus of my life through Topaz, my first horse, and I don't think I'll ever retire. There isn't anything in my life that brings me so much joy." Christine Appel-Bucierka
Emma Drinker, Saratoga, CA
Emma began vaulting at 11 years old. By age 18 she was the National Gold Freestyle Champion. She quickly moved to helping build freestyle routines for her team mates and began coaching in earnest after college. She led her vaulters to dozens of national team and individual championships. She coached Kerith Lemon, Devon Maitozo and Megan Benjamin to multiple medals at World Vaulting Championships. Emma's horses have won many AVA Horse of the Year and Osierlea awards. She achieved AVA r status as a judge, has served on the AVA Board and provides consistant, stable leadership to the Mt. Eden Vaulting Club as head coach and longeur. "I've seen her participate at all levels of our sport - constantly working to make it better. She has the ability to always find the common ground between factions and is always available to help anyone in need with good, common sense advice." Suzanne Detol (FEI O)
Nancy Stevens-Brown, Soquel, CA
Since 1971 Nancy Stevens-Brown has been enthralled with vaulting. From camp, to a personal AVA Gold Medal, from special needs, to coaching the 1990 World Equestrian Games vaulting bronze medal team, for more than three decades Nancy has shown students new ways to enjoy vaulting. She continues to encourage vaulters and enthusiasts to recognize the countless creative possibilities of our ever-evolving sport. Nancy is president of the AVA, has been an active board member since the late '70s, and is the "keeper of the flame" as the AVA historian for more than a decade. As founder of Timberline Vaulters, Nancy coached and longed for one of the top clubs in US vaulting history before "retiring" in 1998 to teach clinics across the nation and encourage vaulters at every level to explore and expand the limits of our sport.
Priscilla G. Faulkner, Covington, GA
Priscilla G. Faulkner founded AVA's crowd-pleasing US demonstration team, the Friendship Team, in 1995. Since then, she has helped bring vaulting before thousands of new audiences in venues ranging from the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA. Priscilla also founded the Falconwood Vaulting Club in 1989 with her daughter, Priscilla B. Faulkner. A long-time AVA board member, Priscilla brings her own brand of Southern charm to the task at hand, whether it be mentoring a silver or gold level vaulter to perform, for the first time, for a crowd of 10,000, or convincing an equestrian event manager to book a vaulting demonstration before a cast of thousands, and being invited back year after year.
Rick Hawthorne, Lake View Terrace, CA
Rick Hawthorne is co-founder of Valley View Vaulters, the largest club in the US that works with vaulters of all ages and abilities, including those with physical/cognitive disabilities, behavioral problems and at-risk youth. He is a long-time AVA board member and special program director for the National Council for Therapeutic Vaulting with his wife, Virginia Hawthorne. Rick has coached numerous AVA national championship teams and individuals in the past 25 years, and has also coached many, many vaulters whowhile not winning national championshipsare, indeed, champions in their own right.
Merry Cole, Albuquerque, NM
Merry Cole brought vaulting to New Mexico in 1982 when she moved there from Virginia, where she, with the help of mentor and AVA judge Sharon Davis, started the Great Falls Pony Club Vaulting Team, the first competitive vaulting team on the East Coast. Her Albuquerque Vaulters has been an active and prolific club, spinning off additional clubs as her students grew up and moved away. An AVA board member for more than 20 years, Merry was also the Region IV supervisor and was instrumental in bringing the AVA National Championships to New Mexico in 1991the first time the event was held outside of California. The daughter of parents who started the world famous Cole Marionettes show, Merry has a circus background, and once had a dog act, a trapeze act, rode the elephant and even sold popcorn, though not all at once.
Adrianne Stang, Saratoga, CA
Adrienne Stang's vaulting legacy is deep and wide ranging. She founded Sundance Vaulters in 1978 and coached until 1986. During her tenure, the club consisted of 120 members, including 60 emotionally handicapped vaulters. A sought-after judge, she has officiated at nearly every AVA National Championship since the 1980s and has judged the Vaulting World Championships four times, as well as many European Championships and CVI competitions. Throughout the years, Adrienne has held a variety of important offices for the AVA, from Technical Committee chair to national office manager.
Suzanne Detol, Cornelius, OR
Sue Detol is a former vaulter and a serial founder of vaulting clubstwo in the 1980s and yet another, DevonWood Vaulting Club, started in 2002. She has been a mentor to vaulters, coaches, longeurs and judges for the past 20 years. An AVA judge since 1990, Sue became an FEI O judge in 2001, and is well respected in the international judging arena. She has worn many hats in the AVAhaving served on the board of directors as general secretary, executive VP, Region II supervisor, Region III supervisor, medal test secretary and technical committee chair.