Splash Dogs – Junior Handlers Spotlight

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By Ursula Kinley.
There is always a lot of buzz around the Splash Dogs pool and dock at the Splash Dogs Cynosport World Dock Jumping Championships, however this year, a lot of buzz was around all of the Junior Handlers making their way out to the competition. This year seven Junior Handlers competed at the championships representing four different states, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. Many had returned from the 2008 Championships with hopes of medaling in 2009, and medal they did!

The Junior Handler Championship kicked off the Championship festivities on Saturday afternoon. This division of competition is focused on the younger of our competitors and their dogs, the future of the sport. This Junior Handler Division of competition had a diverse group of dogs, who would later compete in Sunday’s Divisional Championships. The handlers ranged in age from 6 yrs to 15 yrs of age.

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Junior Handler Taylor Hettich and her Labrador Retriever Abby

As the paparazzi filled the stands the crowd waited in anticipation. Experienced Junior Handler Dillon Bosworth and his duo of English Springer Spaniels from Bear River City, Ut., took to the dock along side newcomers Raylee Jensen and Whitney Lightner, who were participating in their first Championship ever. In the end, Junior Handler Taylor Hettich and her Labrador Retriever Abby, won the Junior Handler Championship with a jump of 21 feet. This jump gave Taylor and Abby high hopes of medaling in Sunday’s Senior Division.

Cori Kruml and Maximus

Cori Kruml and Maximus 2009 Top Junior Handler of the Year

Cori Kruml, 13 yr old out of Mission Viejo, Ca and Maximus, an American Pitbull Terrier followed closely with a 19 foot 6 inch jump which secured them the silver medal. Cori and Maximus came out and showed everyone what magnificent companions and athletes the pitbull breed can be. In their first championship ever, Whitney Lightner and her Border Collie, Saber out of Glendale, AZ secured the bronze medal with an 18 foot 7 inch jump. As the fun carried on into the evening at the Splash Dogs Annual Awards Dinner, Junior Handlers continued to stay in the spotlight. That night many awards would be handed out, including the Top Junior Handler of the Year award. This award is based on the number of competitions under the Junior Handlers belt throughout the 2009 competition season. The 2009 Top Junior Handler of the Year was awarded to Cori Kruml out of Mission Viejo, CA. This young lady has shown a great deal of maturity and diversity in her handling skills this passed year. She handled twelve different dogs and competed in over 50 competition waves throughout 2009. A pretty impressive accomplishment to say the least.

As we continued on into Sunday’s Divisional Championships, we saw many of the Junior Handlers return to take part in the final day of Championship competition. In the Junior Divisional Championship, the gold medal was won by 14 yr old, Jordan Gillman and her dog Midnight Bleu with a new personal best jump of 16 feet 7 inches. Jordan and Midnight out of Fullerton, Ca competed against several great teams, including Jordan’s little brother, 10 yr old Seth Gilman and his dog Hershey Kiss. Team Hershey Kiss came home with the silver medal in the Junior Division with a jump of 13 feet 9 inches. This brother/sister duo have shown consistent improvement throughout 2009. In 2008, these two topped the Splash Divisional Championship, Jordan and Midnight Bleu were Splash Division Champions and Seth and Hershey in the silver medal position, a great improvement in one year for both of these teams.

The Gillmans: Jordan Gillman and her dog Midnight Bleu.

The Gillmans: Jordan /Midnight Bleu and Seth /Hershey .

In the Senior Division Championship we saw Junior Handlers Dillon Bosworth and Taylor Hettich competing in one of the largest divisions of the Championship. Dillon and Cubby, an English Springer Spaniel pulled off a great jump of 16.02 in the semi finals. In the Finals round we saw newly crowned 2009 Junior Handler Champion Taylor Hettich, a 13 yr old out of Sparks, NV and her dog Abby gave it all they had with a final jump of 19 feet 8 inches, they eventually secured fifth place in the Senior Division.

No matter where each Junior Handlers finished in the competition, each of them are Champions in my book. They all reminded each other that at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if you and your dog had FUN. No matter their placement , these kids had smiles from ear to ear. So here’s to 2010 and all the new smiles and Junior Handlers!!!

Ursula Kinley is an active competitor and trainer in several dog sports, including dock jumping. She is the head trainer for Crazy K9’s Dog Training in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she helps her clients understand the benefits that activities such as dog sports, can bring to their canine companions. If she is not training or competing with her own dogs, Ursula can usually be found working at one of many Splash Dog events that are held across the United States each year. http://www.splashdogs.com/

Photos provided Courtesy of the Splash Dog Community, family members and photographers (c).