Despite heavy rain along the East Coast and several days of stalled play, the Tommy Hitchcock Memorial Final between Crestview Genetics and Blackberg Ranch finished on time on Sunday, June 3, at New Bridge Polo & Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina.
Crestview Genetics returned to the field as the defending champions, having defeated Bliss Polo 12-8 in last year’s tournament. They were met in the final this year by Blackberg Ranch, and despite a strong showing by the Minnesota natives, Crestview Genetics reclaimed the trophy with a repeat final score of 12-8.
Crestview Genetics opened play with back-to-back goals from Julio Arellano and Hugo Lloret. Crestview’s goals were quickly matched by a hat trick from Blackberg Ranch’s Derek Berg to set up a highly-competitive first half as the two teams continued to trade goals throughout the remainder of the first two chukkers. “The final was an open running game, especially the first half, with an impressive performance by Most Valuable Player Aiden Meeker playing his first 12 goal,” recounted New Bridge Polo Manager Haley Bryan. It was not until the third chukker that Crestview Genetics were able to get an advantage over their opponents, outscoring them 2-1, to end the first half in the lead 8-6.
Crestview Genetics returned from the halftime break organized and determined to hold on to their narrow lead. Arellano and Lloret worked in harmony, combining their efforts for two penalty conversions and a field goal. Despite hard work from the Blackberg Ranch squad, they were unable to add any goals to the board in the fourth or fifth chukkers. Arellano on the other hand added to his offensive onslaught with his seventh goal of the day. One chukker left and trailing by six, Blackberg Ranch gave a final offensive push, Horacio Onetto securing two consecutive goals. Despite a resurgence in the final minutes of play, Blackberg Ranch was unable to mount a comeback and Crestview Genetics proudly defended their Tommy Hitchcock Memorial title 12-8. The significance of the occasion was even more marked, as father and son Alan and Aiden Meeker lifted the perpetual trophy high after their first 12-goal tournament together.
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Aiden Meeker. Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Maní, owned and played by Marcos Onetto. “Maní is a 6-year-old gelding I purchased from my brother a year-and-a-half ago, his name means peanut in Spanish,” said Onetto. “He received Best Playing Pony in the Robert Uihlein Jr. Memorial 10-Goal Final at Sarasota Polo Club [Lakewood Ranch, Florida] this past winter. He’s really improving—he’s very fast, very handy, lots of speed and a tough bumper.”