South Putnam senior Emily Bookwalter recently signed a national letter of intent to ride for the University of South Carolina equestrian team. South Carolina is the reigning 2005 NCAA Division I National Champions, and consistently has one of the top equestrian programs in the nation.
"I was able to visit South Carolina in September on a recruiting trip, and I decided it was the right school for me," Bookwalter said. "I really liked the coaches, the campus, and it is an excellent school academically."
Bookwalter is a three-time national qualifier for the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship, a five-time top 10 rider at the American Quarter Horse Congress and a four-time Indiana State Fair champion.
She also was recruited by the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University, but the Columbia, South Carolina atmosphere stuck out above the rest.
"The tradition and spirit at the campus impressed me and I look forward to being a Gamecock," she said. "South Carolina is a member of the SEC, (Southeastern Conference) which is the toughest conference in the nation. Georgia, Auburn and Kentucky all have very good teams."
It's no wonder why a number of top caliber teams were interested in Bookwalter, as her resume goes on and on. Not only is she a decorated horse rider, she has a 3.98 cumulative grade-point average, is an All-American Scholar and a member of both the National Honor Roll and National Society of High School Scholar. Bookwalter is also a recipient of the USAA International Foreign Language Award, National History and Government Award, National Achievement Academy Award, Who's Who Among American High School Students and National Honors Society.
And if that's not enough, she was also involved in varsity swimming, tennis and cross country, along with the drama club and Relay for Life.
Although it wasn't easy, Bookwalter always put her schoolwork first on her list. As it turned out, everything else just kind of fell into place.
"It was really tough, but I had to set my priorities," she said. "I just decided what was most important for me. Academics, for me, always comes first."
Next year, Bookwalter plans on majoring in journalism, with hopes of getting into advertising. She said she has looked into the program, and likes what it has to offer her academically.
Athletically, Bookwalter just hopes she can provide the Gamecocks with a reliable contributor to the team.
"I want to be successful in equestrian competitions and just be an asset to the team," she said.