Wellington native Haylee Cille Jerkins, daughter of Lisa and Marrell Jerkins, has been selected to join Auburn University’s equestrian team after a grueling selection process.
The varsity team slot is no surprise in the Jerkins family. Jerkins’ father, Marrell Jerkins, is an Auburn graduate and Academic All SEC football player. Her mother, Lisa Ann Jerkins, played varsity tennis for Sweet Briar College.
Jerkins, an avid writer and artist with a red belt in tae kwon do, plans to study pre-med while competing against the nation’s top university-age riders.
Jerkins, 18, has been winning on the Florida Hunter A and AA Circuit for years, winning grand and reserve championships in Wellington and Lexington, Ky. Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival is the world’s most competitive series of winter hunter and jumper shows.
Auburn University has one of the nation’s top equestrian programs; The teams were National Champions in 2016, 2013, 2011 and 2006, and is actively competing in the 2018 National Championships. Auburn also holds the title SEC Champions in 2016, 2011, 2010 and 2004.
Jerkins has been riding since she was 12. She was an A student at Florida Virtual School while learning the nuances of a winning jumping round from her trainers, David Belford and Christopher Payne of Cincinnati-based New Hope Farm LLC. But some of her extra edge may have come from her study of tae kwon do, a Korean martial art grounded in Japanese, Chinese and Korean traditions. Tae kwon do uses head-height jumping and spinning kicks that emphasize balance and control. Jerkins has earned a red belt, which means she is studying the highest level of tae kwon do for the black belt.
Jerkins hones her focusing skills with avid gaming. She rounds out her competitive life by teaching herself Japanese and working on creative writing. She also is an artist, and one of her favorite subjects is Japanese anime characters.