2011 AKC National Agility Championship

PlanningthecourseJessicaAjoux,DianeBauman,Chris Ott-Parker,StephRainer

DogSport Magazine Event Coverage
Article & Photography By Linda D. Bohm

“If I ever thought I had the slightest chance of making the Finals, I would have gotten my hair done,” screamed novice handler Rosemary Nero when she learned she had placed 6th in the 12 inch division last Sunday at the 15th National Agility Championship.

A newcomer to the world of agility, this 58 year old had been running her four year old red poodle Remy the past three years, never anticipating the weekend she just experienced.

“I used to be a tennis player, but aging knees forced me to find a new, competitive sport that would keep my mind sharp and my body active, “ she explains. After discovering agility through a friend just 4 years ago, Rosemary decided that if she was starting a new sport, she needed a competitive dog that might take her to great heights in the AKC.Rosemary Nero&Remyinwinner'sseat

“At my age, I had a Bucket List and one of the first wishes was to qualify for the Nationals in agility.” When she learned that Remy had qualified for the April event, her journey was about to begin.  She needed to buy a new car to assure a safe trip, alone with Remy, for the 16-hour drive from hometown Barrington, Illinois to the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA.

Carrying the enthusiasm of the proverbial “kid in the candy shop”, Rosemary soaked up every moment of this new experience of competing among the top 1100 teams in the country. Wide eyed and a bit embarrassed, she admitted that she stopped a World Team member asking where she could buy the beautiful red, white and blue jacket they were wearing. “I didn’t realize these were World Team members – this is all so new to me,” she admitted sheepishly.

Despite two clean rounds sporting respectable times on Saturday, she had no expectations for Sunday and checked out of her hotel room before Sunday’s events hoping to get on the road early.

But when Remy zipped through the hybrid course putting in a clean and fast round, she discovered that she was in 10th place, out of 248 dogs. “I couldn’t believe it – I was living a dream…I was going to be in the Finals, “ she reported smiling from ear to ear.

The hybrid course, round 3, designed by Janet Budzynski proved too challenging for many top teams who weren’t lucky enough to join Rosemary and Remy later that day. And some teams, were given a last chance in the Challenger’s course designed by Bob Long in order to have a chance to compete in the Finals.

The fastest clean dog from each jump height in the Challenger’s round has the opportunity to run in the Finals. Unfortunately, there were few clean rounds in most of the classes and none in the 26-inch class.

However, the winner of the 24-inch height, Tracy Golden, an oral surgeon from California, went on to run her Border Collie Blink, to another first place win in Judge Scott Stock’s Final’s course with a time of 39.718 seconds.

26inchbordercollie

“I designed a course to create excitement and let the dogs have fun,” explained Scott. An AKC judge since 2004, Scott went on to say, ”these teams went through the technical part of the competition, now let the people separate out the people and let the crowd enjoy it.”

And enjoy they did. The Coliseum, which was the nicer of the two rings housing the weekend’s courses, was rocking from the screams of the excited crowd who watched the dogs enthusiastically sprint through Scott’s final line of obstacles. Even though the course was a challenge to the tired legs of the humans, it was obvious that the dogs were pumped up and loving the course design.

The first teams to compete represented the five heights of the preferred divisions, which netted wins by a Papillon, two Shetland Sheepdogs, an Australian Shepherd (who had won it last year) and a Golden Retriever. Next were the six heights competing to add “NAC” in front of their dog’s name.

2010 World Team coach Nancy Gyes, who was scouting new prospects for this year’s world team throughout the weekend, explained that “you need to have your game in hand in these stressful big venues and keep your game face on to compete successfully against the best dogs in the country.”

Despite her naivety and inexperience, Rosemary found her “game face”, kept it together and ran conservatively to yield a clean round and win a 6th place. “I just didn’t have any more steam at that last run from the chute –but I didn’t fall down and I didn’t get lost– it’s like a dream – is it real?” she questioned with disbelief.

This is what agility is all about – the pros have good days and bad days and the newcomer…well,  now they’re hooked having tasted the magic of the Nationals.

On the rail:

Andrea Samuels won the 8-inch division with Sparkle and a fifth place her other Papillon Chase. This is her first National AKC win. She grinned and said,” I’ve wanted this so badly – I was so hungry and I was going to do it this time.”

Another dog named Sparkle owned and handled by Patti Gagnon celebrates her first win in the 12 inch division.

World Team medalist Ashley Deacon and pyr shep Luka won yet another championship in the 16-inch division.

Roseanne Demascio and her Border collie Drifter beat out 281 dogs in the 20-inch division.

Tracy Golden took the 24-inch division.

Tori Self, an 18-year-old college student from FL, won the 26-inch division despite “being so nervous before I got in. This is so cool,” she said as she held her new trophy and bar.

Winners&judgeScottStock&COOJohnLyons

AKC National Agility Champions (titles as published by the AKC)

8” – Papillon Sparkle – handled/owned by Andrea Samuels( NAC CH MACH4 StarStruck Sparkle Plenty OF) of Port Washington, NY

12” – Sheltand Sheepdog Sparkle – handled/owned by Patti Gagnon (NAC MACH6 Mikamar Diamonds Are Forever NAP NJP MXF ) of Nashua, NH

16” – Pyrenean Shepherd Luka – handled/owned by Ashley Deacon (NAC 2 MACH3 Luka De La Brise XF )  of Redwood City, CA

20” – Border Collie Drifter – owned/handled by Rosanne Demascio (NAC MACH Drifter XF) of Gilbertsville, PA

24” – Border Collie Blink  – handled/owned by Tracy Golden (NAC Contact Point Made Ewe Blink MX MXJ XF ) of Hidden Hills, CA

26” – Border Collie Revolution – handled/owned by Tori Self (NAC Sagehill’s Change The World MX MXJ OF) of New Smyrna Beach, FL

PreferredFinalists

AKC Preferred National Agility Champions (titles as published by the AKC)

4” –  Papillon Taylor – handled/owned by Barbara Scanlan (PNAC Wingssong Sweet Baby James CD RE AX AXJ MXP4 MJP6 PAX2 OFP ) of Normal, IL

8” – Shetland Sheepdog Skyler – handled/owned by Sandi A.Osborne(PNAC MACH5 Windy Haven Explosive Sky AXP MJP XF) of Flat Rock, MI

12” – Shetland Sheepdog Angel – owned/handled by Margaret Howes (PNAC MACH Valkyrie Dark Angel MXP MJP2 NF) of Springfield, MA

16” – Australian Shepherd Rusty – handled/owned by Naci Berkoz (PNAC MACH2 Old West New Kid In Town MXP2 MJP2 OF ) of Tarzana, CA

20” –  Golden Retriever Devon handled/owned by Kelly Armstrong (PNAC

MACH2 Argo’s Turn The Page UD RE JH MXP MJP2 NF) of Centreville, MD