Ava Stearns began her journey as an equestrian while growing up in Chilmark. Now she is decorated on the national level, riding for Auburn University. Last month, the team won their sixth consecutive South East Conference championship.

This week, Ms. Stearns and the rest of the team are headed to Ocala, Fla. for the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship, which runs from April 18 to 20.

Ms. Stearns has earned All-American status five times as a member of Auburn University’s equestrian team. 

“It’s really special to be able to be a part of the team and to grow that legacy,” said Ms. Stearns in a recent phone interview.

She began riding at Pond View Farm in West Tisbury as a child and continued to train there until she was recruited by Auburn University.

“Living on the Vineyard, when you are passionate about something, you have to be a bit more committed to it,” Ms. Stearns said. “If you want to compete on a national or international level, you have to travel so much, you have to give up so much to compete.”

The Vineyard was a perfect training ground for Ava Stearns. — Auburn Sports Media.

In addition to being an accomplished equestrian, Ms. Stearns is pursuing her masters in public administration.

“We spend a lot of time being an athlete,” she said. “Our schedules are very regimented, but for me, my whole life, I’ve always loved academics . . . I want to be a well-rounded human being.”

Ms. Stearns says that support from teachers has always been integral to her ability to pursue both her equestrian and academic goals.

“There were so many teachers in my middle school and high school career who supported me and gave me the flexibility to be able to chase those opportunities and still be the best student I could be . . . . I had a lot of help from the Vineyard community and my teachers who saw this dream and supported me from the start.”

While at Auburn, Ms. Stearns has been chosen five times by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association for the Ariat All-America team. Team members are the top 10 riders for various equestrian events.

Ms. Stearns competes in two events: jumping seat fences and jumping seat flat. During the SEC championship, Ms. Stearns scored an 83.33 out of 100 during the fences competition. During the flat event, riders follow a designated pattern that includes eight specific maneuvers. Ms. Stearns was awarded a 92.33 during the SEC championship.

While relishing the competitive nature of college equestrian, Ms. Stearns said the Vineyard continues to ground her in the love of the sport.

“One of my favorite things about the Vineyard, whether its athletic or not, it gives you so much opportunity,” she said. “A lot of people who do it, do it for the love of the horse. I think having a community where it’s a bit more laid back gives you a place to go home and have it just be fun instead of competitive all the time.”