Animal science senior Fiona McBride-Luman represented the United States at the 7th Annual International Intercollegiate Challenge Cup, featuring collegiate polo players fro m both the U.S. and England, on Jan. 26 in Wellington, Florida.
McBride-Luman was selected after she applied to become apart of the national team pool, an application she submitted at the last minute and didn’t expect much of at the time.
“I was just really surprised and shocked and honored,” McBride-Luman said of her selection to the national team. “It was a really great opportunity, and I was humbled to be selected since there were a lot of applicants and a lot of well-qualified people to play and to be apart of it. It was really just an honor.”
While competing against England, McBride-Luman fell off her horse at the end of the first playing period, or chukka. While polo players normally try to get back on their horse after a fall, McBride-Luman described the fall as one of the worst she’s had in her career. The playing surface was made up of packed, wet beach sand. As a result, she was unable to continue in the competition.
“That was embarrassing for sure,” McBride-Luman said. “Other than that, it was a really good experience. The horses were great, the British team [was] great, the arena was really nice. So it was definitely a bummer that I fell off, and I wish I could have contributed more.”
Despite her falling off, McBride-Luman commended the sportsmanship between her compatriots and her opponents, and still spectated the game from the crowd and cheered on her teammates along the way.
Every journey to represent the U.S. has its beginning. For McBride-Luman, her journey began in her home town of Oakdale in Stanislaus County in eighth grade.
“I had been riding since I was nine,” McBride-Luman said. “One of my friends of mine who went to UC Davis, who I rode with, she got me into polo back in Oakdale […] it was just a cool kind of team sport thing that you could do with horses that I really enjoyed. That’s what I’ve been doing since.”
Now, McBride-Luman is an active member of the Cal Poly Polo Team.
Megan Judge, the Cal Poly Polo Team’s coach and alumna, was delighted to hear about McBride-Luman’s selection to the national team. According to Judge, this is the third year that Cal Poly has sent a competitor to this event.
“My first reaction was ‘absolutely, she deserved it,’” Judge said. “I thought she was going to Europe last year and I was really excited that as a senior that she would get the opportunity to play versus England.”
Cal Poly Polo Team president Maggie Papka was also ecstatic that her teammate got to represent the United States.
“Nobody deserves it more than [McBride-Luman],” Papka said. “I’m really excited she got that opportunity.”
Papka said that McBride-Luman’s selection to the national team opens up opportunities for other members of the Cal Poly Polo Team to receive a call-up to the national team in the future.
“We can work and step up our game so we can have a chance to do that in the future,” Papka said.