Beardies Attend the 2003 AKC National Agility Championships

AKC Nationals - Photo by Tien Tran

2003 AKC National Agility Championship
Including Iams International / State Team Tournament

December 2 -4 - Long Beach, California

The 2003 AKC National Agility Championships were held in Long Beach, California from 2 - 4 December 2003 beginning with the Iams International/State Team Tournament on Tuesday, followed by the National Agility Championships on Wednesday and Thursday. The requirements to participate were 4 Double Qualifying Scores from the Excellent B class earned between September 27, 2002 and October 1, 2003. Beardies have participated in all seven Nationals since the very first one in 1996. This year a dozen Beardies qualified to go, but only the three Californians attended.

*MACH2 Anasazi Secret of the Wizard (Wizard)
Sarah Halsey of Fallbrook, CA
MACH Bedlam's Catch Me If You Can (Chase)
Leslie Dawson-North of Wabigoon, Ontario, Canada
Blackfriar A Scot On The Rocks, MX, MXJ (Chloe)
Jan Vallone of Centreville, VA
MACH Buaidh Mithandril Xerox O'Jen (Kassi)
Leslie Dawson-North of Wabigoon, Ontario, Canada
Fox Lane's Zany Treasure, AX, AXJ (Ivy Sue)
Carol Carlsen of Oxford, MI
MACH Harley of St. John (Harley)
David Williamson of Pearland TX
MACH O'Duinnin HMT Rhythm 'N Booze (Arbi)
Ann Chandoha of Austin, TX
MACH3 O'Duinnin HMT Sonic Boom (Jet)
Karen Barratt of Galveston, TX
O'Duinnin HMT This Bud's for Boo, MX, MXJ (Budweiser)
Karen Barratt of Galveston, TX
*Spindrift William Rikker, MX, MXJ (Chipper)
Patricia Coreris of Pacifica, CA
*Springhill's Spirit of Brio, MX, MXJ (Brio)
Sharon Williamson of Costa Mesa, CA
Wigglesworth Out on a Limb, MX, MXJ (Jax)
Jeff Ipser of Auburn, OH

*Beardies in attendance

The Nationals followed the format set up for the last seven events. The difference in 2003 is that it was held in conjunction with the Obedience and the Conformation Invitationals. The vast agility community in California provided trials both the weekend preceding the Nationals and also the Friday and Saturday following for a full week of competition in California.

Many thanks to Sarah Halsey (Wizard), Sharon Williamson (Brio) and Patti Bott (Lexus [Std Schnauzer] and Spice) who sent me accounts of their experiences.

Sarah Halsey

"WizzieThree clean runs, placing 25th out of 137 in the 20" division at the AKC Nationals!!! Just about too unreal!!! What a fantastic dream, and week, and electric event - unlike anything I ever even imagined! Even just to be there at an Agility Nationals is something all Beardie agility handlers should try to do. What a really great learning experience it is. Top handlers and dogs were even outperforming themselves! Absolutely fabulous to watch! Camaraderie was high even at the top levels. And how nice to have the friendliness and well wishes from all the out of town Beardie visitors who were here for either the Agility Nationals and/or the Eukanuba Invitational. I am SO proud of my always woofing Wizzie!!! For sure I cannot believe it really happened! I am always one who expects the worst, not the best, so you can believe I am still just leaping and bouncing way high in the air like a Beardie!!! I hope Wizzie showed just a little bit how absolutely trainable, neat and wonderful our Beardie breed is because, even though clown that he may appear to be, Wizzie always tries his very hardest to do good for me.

To do a BRIEF recap of the Nationals is not an easy task! It was such a fabulous experience from its beginning, with the traditional parade of entrants state by state, to the exciting final night under the bright lights and TV cameras of Animal Planet, where mere fractions of seconds separated some of the finalists.

Day 1 was state team competition, which was good practice. (Wizard was a worthy entrant, qualifying in his International Class, which no doubt boosted California to its second place win.-Libby)

Day 2 had two regular qualifying classes where one could get a double-Q.

Day 3 had a "hybrid" (a combo Std/JWW course) non-regular, non-qualifying class where you could be clean but not call it an official "Q", but it did count toward your 3 run totals as another possible score of 100. After the Hybrid class came the "Challenger" round, for those who had placed in any of the previous three rounds, but were not otherwise in the 10-13 who made it to the Finals of each jump height. This was probably the most exciting of the rounds. As only ONE would be picked for each height Final, the competitors went ALL OUT!

Having attended only one other Nationals (Denver in Nov. 2001), I am limited in my comparisons. Courses were fairly similar, flowing and without any tables (in order to save time). Like Denver, we had two rings, one for 20"-24", and the other for the smaller dogs. I believe Texas had 3 rings. However, one big difference was that Long Beach was the first time Agility was not a stand-alone event. It was held at the same time as the huge Eukanuba Invitational in an adjoining building. The Obedience finals were in rings near the agility rings.

There are pluses and minuses to this (and still much ongoing controversy among agility people, many of whom seem to prefer having agility alone). However, the latest "fairly" official word is that the combo event is here to stay, like it or not! So, yes, we had less space for crating (no X-pens), RV and car parking was not RIGHT outside the arena entrance as in Denver, there was FAR less seating for spectators, let alone exhibitors, half of whom had to STAND to watch the Finals. Denver had fantastic permanent CHAIRS, not bleachers, where we all could EVEN bring our dogs to sit with us! In Long Beach the Obedience people complained how noisy Agility was, especially during the long delay just before the Finals when Animal Planet encountered big problems with the light bank. In World Team competitions there is always much celebrating, music, singing and dancing going on whenever there is down time. So a similar scene took place in Long Beach in the center of the Finals ring during that seemingly endless delay, with supremely supple Mr. "noodle legs" Marq Cheek leading the dancing, along with Dan Dege and others from the judging panel. What a great prelude to the Finals, really creating a fun and festive mood! However, Obedience folk have their traditional ways and formats for competition, and, unfortunately, silence is what they are used to. So obviously music and dancing did not make them too happy (like it did us agility nuts!) and they requested that we quiet down.

On the plus side is that, if eligible, you could compete in all three events, or at least watch all three. Vendors abounded and the "Meet the Breeds" displays in the conformation building were great to visit and learn from. Our BCCSC had the Bearded Collie booth and it was fabulous! Being biased, I am convinced it didn't take the top prize ONLY because the Beardie booth had won last year at the Florida Invitational! The powers that be just wouldn't want the same breed to keep winning, would they! Another plus is that many more Beardie people were in attendance than there would be for just an agility event. Pam Harris, Jana Dozet, Cindy Nellipowitz, and Chet Jezierski (there on a photo assignment) all came over to wish us good luck. Two very friendly breeders from Hawaii said how much they enjoyed watching Wizzie's exuberance and that he sure "makes Beardies look good". You know how good that made me feel! And our friend, Beardie owner, and judge of the Texas Agility Finals round, Tammy Domico, was working at the Long Beach Nationals, controlling the line-up entering the ring. She was a real support to me as Wizzie was a bit "over the top." Noise, excitement, crowds, just thrill him no end - the nut even LOVES thunder! Or maybe it was me!?! Anyhow, Tammy helped with a bit of distraction as we were waiting our turn to go into the ring. Pat Coreris with Chipper from Northern California is always very giving with a friendly hello and helpful advice. She went home with at least two Qs. It is neat to have support from some of those who do agility with your own breed.

Some of the very TOP competitors are as relaxed and nice as can be. I was impressed not only with Gerry Brown's winning the 24" round with his Sterling (WOW!), but what a nice person he is, too. Just shortly before that run he was perfectly willing to talk to me (Wizzie was crated near his dogs) and didn't give the slightest hint of impatience or being uptight about his upcoming run for the roses!

This was the first time (I believe) that a Nationals' running surface was carpet (the controversial Max Trax) without padding on top of cement. This was particularly foreign to western dogs, who mostly run outdoors on grass or dirt. Because of this, a local Club put on a 3 day trial in Ventura the weekend before the Nationals using the EXACT same carpeting that was then shipped on to Long Beach. That helped tremendously to get a feel for the footing. Many dogs from all over the country used this trial as a warm-up, so it was almost a mini-Nationals. As for me and Wizard, I was thankful we had this test trial on the carpet, although I sure didn't think so that first day! The first course had been designed for grass and required a hard crank to avoid a trap in a fast opening. No problem on grass. Dog after dog did face plants between jumps 2 and 3. Poor Wizzie slid on his chin half the distance! Even with a hairy beard, he still suffered a bleeding scrape on his chin, not that he ever noticed! Next he hit his chin again when he slid into the Table and he had knocked bars in both classes! Not at all a good omen for the Nationals! But I learned yet again that our wonderful Beardie breed are true working dogs and know how to cope and adjust. I was amazed how fast (after this day of slipping and sliding) Wizzie returned to normal style. With each run I could tell that Wizzie became more adept at controlling himself on this surface and, by Long Beach, I think he felt quite sure of himself, though he was probably a bit slower than usual, as many of the faster dogs were. For a slow to moderate dog the surface was no issue, but the faster dogs had to adapt or fail, if they couldn't.

The Nationals for me personally could not have been more exciting, more fun, or more successful. Many of you know how truly surprised I am if we ever do well! My Wizzie is very opposite from me, thank goodness! He is bold and confident, driven and fast. So it is always hard for me to keep up, keep calm, keep track of that little motor, and BIG motormouth, and most of all hard to be consistent enough to get those darn two Qs in one day! So when Wizzie came home with three, not two, Qs in a row from the Nationals, well I was absolutely floored!!! Truly! Ann, I almost CRIED like you! Wizzie tries SO hard. What effort that neat little dog puts into everything in his life! He just needs to train me! He ended up 25th of 137 dogs in the 20" division. Though not in the Final 12, I could not be prouder of his finish. Truly a crying time!!!!

So, in conclusion, it was a simply fantastic event to be a part of. Everyone serious about agility should try to get qualified or at least go to watch an agility championship!. Just about everything to experience in agility is there to sample: So much inspiration, so much to learn from, and so much fun! It's a dream you wish would go on and on and on!"

Sharon Williamson

"Brio and I had a wonderful time although we didn't do well. We made most of our weave pole entries, had nice contacts and start line stays but the handler managed to mess up all the other nice things that she usually does so well. It was a hoot to be there anyway and although I had hoped to get some green ribbons for her, it was not to be. Watching the top dogs compete in the finals was quite exciting. Agility is the only sporting event I get worked up over (unless it's the California Angels winning the World Series). I also competed with my Cocker Spaniel, Sam, who is 9 years old and has been to 4 Nationals. He Q'd once, but off coursed on our other 2 runs. He frequently sets his own agenda. This was his last Nationals and knowing that, it's sad."

Patti Bott

"We are home from the Nationals and enjoying our memories. It is a grand adventure to go to any kind of competition like this where the best of the best are there to play. I love the atmosphere of everyone being so proud because they qualified to get there and will be running with their teammate against the course and the clock. It's exciting talking to everyone that has come in from other states and seeing the dogs they run. I was surprised to see so many Cardigan Corgi's, just don't see that many here in Southern California. The large majority of us realize that just to be there is the prize and we will be sitting in the stands watching the finals on the last day. Wow, the ability of the handlers and the training of their dogs is unbelievable. Each year it gets better and better.

Lexus has qualified for the Nationals for the last 3 years and has been the only Standard. Schnauzer each time we have gone. This year was her last as she will be 9 years old in January. She will still continue to run on a limited basis locally. It was interesting to hear that so many of the dogs that were running were 8 to 10 years of age and winding down their agility careers. It was bittersweet, but she is still the dog that sleeps on the pillow next to me no matter where she places or how she runs. We were respectable, but her age and lack of conditioning due to her injury this year really showed in our times. She had time faults of 2 to 3 seconds on each run, but what a steady little dog! She had been throwing up Tuesday night every hour on the hour and I wasn't sure she would be able to run. Her stomach settled down on Wednesday and my plan was to pull her if she was having any kind of problem on course. She ran two runs and gave me everything she had.

It seemed Chipper and Pat were always running in the other ring about the time we were running in the small dog ring. The rings were both set with the same course, but 8's, 12's and 16's ran in one ring and the 20's and 24's in the other. Sharon always ran the chance of having a conflict with Sam and Brio, but always handled it like a pro, put away one dog and got the other to run.

The way the events seem to be falling with the AKC I have a feeling that there won't be another time where it will be just Agility. Thank goodness for the Beardie National in Colorado. The new requirements for 2004 of 4 double Q's and 150 MACH points will knock out many of the dogs that are not built for speed if their handlers don't hit a show every weekend.

It was good to see Jana Dozet and Pam Harris at the show volunteering in the rings. Spice was quite miffed at being left home, but she will get over it. We are all looking forward to heading to Colorado in 2004 for the Beardie National. Grendel and Spice will be making a repeat performance together as the "Twisted Sisters Team" for the Pairs competition. Scary!!!" - Patti Bott

Beardie Scores:
National Agility Championships:

Beardies - 137 dogs competed at the 20" level
Faults = 18 points each

#25 - Sarah Halsey and Wizard

Rd I-Standard - 100 - 39.16'- 2Q

Rd II - JWW - 100 - 30.58'- 2Q

Rd III - Combined - 100 - 38.41' Q

#71 - Pat Coreris and Chipper

Rd I-Standard - 100 - 52.33'

Rd II - JWW - 73 - 40.79'

Rd III - Combined - 100 - 48.66'

AKC National Agility Championships 2004

AKC National Agility Championships 2003

AKC National Agility Championships 2002

AKC National Agility Championships 2001

AKC National Agility Championships 2000

AKC National Agility Championships 1998

AKC National Agility Championships 1997

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