Years of hard work and practice have paid off for Lincoln-Way North High School senior Alyssa Lombardi.
The Frankfort teen who has been competing in equestrian competitions across the country for the past six years recently signed a National Letter of Intent to ride for the NCAA/NCEA Division I Kansas State University Equestrian Team.
It was the school she most wanted to attend.
“I know a few girls on the team,” said Alyssa, including 2010 Kansas State grad Alyssa Freeman who is now attending law school at Northern Illinois University.
“She's my mentor,” said Alyssa. “Her coaching style is really good.”
Alyssa's love for horses began when she was a toddler. She vividly remembers visiting a pumpkin patch when she was 2 or 3 years old and riding the ponies.
“I've always loved the animal,” said Alyssa, who was riding horses by age 5 and competing in all-around English and Western events at age 11.
She has acquired a number of trophies and honors through the years, including multiple top 10's and finalist placings at the All American Quarter Horse Congress as well as a multitude of high-point and year-end championships for the Illinois Quarter Horse Association and Land of Lincoln Quarter Horse Association.
Last year, Alyssa placed 5th in the nation in limited-ride hunt seat equitation. In October, she placed 9th out of 132 in horsemanship at the National Youth Activity Team Tournament (NYATT), 10th out of 102 in Novice Youth Trail and top 20 out of 129 in showmanship at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio.
“It's more than I could ever dream of,” Alyssa said of the awards. “I never expected to get this far. Now that I have, it feels really good.”
The high school senior achieved the trophies and awards while maintaining a high level of academic excellence at Lincoln-Way North. She is a straight A student and member of the school's Pi Sigma Pi (history honor society) and Mu Alpha Theta (math honor society).
She was driven by one constant goal -- to be recruited by an NCAA/NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) Division I college and sign a National Letter of Intent to ride for an equestrian team.
That goal was achieved in November when Alyssa was offered a spot on Kansas State's equestrian team for the 2013-2014 season.
It was no small feat, however. There are only 13 Division I colleges in the nation that have a western equestrian team, and Kansas State only had one opening.
Alyssa credits her trainers, Jeff Greaves and Travis Born, for helping her achieve her dream.
“They're amazing,” she said. “I could not have gotten where I am today without them.”
Horses are not Alyssa's only passion. She's also a teacher at heart.
“I like helping people achieve their dreams,” said Alyssa, who plans to pursue a degree in secondary education and teach social science at the high school level.
“I want to help people achieve their dreams,” she added.
Horses will always be a part of her life, however.
"I don't think I could ever get rid of that," said Alyssa.