The American Kennel Club’s National Agility Championship brings together the top dog and handler teams from across the United States for three days of action-packed, high-speed dog agility. This year 890 dog/handler teams competed in the 13th annual agility championships in Concord, North Carolina, with the nation’s best agility teams battling it out until the final run, trying to win the blue ribbon. Women and men of all ages competed, from teenagers (called junior handlers) to a more mature crowd. Everyone’s there to do the best they can, and to enjoy the experience with their dogs.
To get to Nationals, the team must be competing at the Excellent level and qualify at weekend AKC agility competitions held throughout the U.S. Teams must have six qualifying or perfect runs on both the jumpers with weaves and standard courses on the same day of competition. For very fast dogs, this consistency can be hard to achieve.
Teams must also earn 400 points. One point is awarded for each second under time a dog completes a course. Earning enough points in the competition year can be difficult for slower but consistent dogs. This qualification process ensures that the fastest and most consistent teams make it to Nationals.
Friday was the first day of competition, featuring the International Sweepstakes Class and State Team Championship. Saturday the AKC Championship standard and jumpers with weaves classes were run, and Sunday the hybrid class. The dogs with the top cumulative scores from Saturday and Sunday’s competitions moved on to Sunday afternoon’s challenger’s round and the final rounds. A champion wins at each jump height: 8,” 12″, 16″, 20″, 24″ and 26″.
This was the first time I’d been to Nationals. It’s exciting and fun to watch the dog and handler teams, see friends compete, and clap as a dog and handler fly around the course or groan as one of them makes a mistake. As anyone with a dog knows, you have to let the dog know what they should do in a timely manner, and the slightest mistake on the agility course might take you out of the competition. It takes years of training and is definitely a team sport.
Nationals participants include current and former AKC/USA World Team Members, including gold medalists, former AKC National Agility Champions (NAC), Master Agility Champions (MACH – the highest title a dog can learn in AKC agility), and top-placing teams from the U.S. who win or place first through fourth in many of the weekend competitions.
A wide variety of AKC purebred dogs are there, from tiny terriers and corgis to long-legged border collies and standard poodles. The majority of the teams, however, probably know they won’t win the blue ribbon. My border collie Cleo and I are in that latter group. So, like many teams we were there to enjoy the time with our dogs and friends, to run the courses, and to see the top teams. It is fun!
After Friday’s opening ceremony, competition started with the International Sweepstakes Class standard and jumpers with weaves courses. Dogs compete at a higher jump height than the usual AKC jump heights, and the courses and rules follow International/European dog agility rules. The turns and rules are a bit different, as can be the equipment used. Anyone at Nationals can compete, but this day of competition does not count toward the National Agility Championship. However, if you’re trying out for the AKC/USA World Team, winning the competition guarantees an entry for the World Team try-outs that took place in May in Minnesota. The course maps for this and all courses are available at the AKC website.
1st: Barb Davis – NAC MACH3 Strathspey Sapphire Rock-it MXF (Shetland Sheepdog)
2nd: Katie Conn 2009 USA/AKC World Team Member – MACH 2 Waldenwood It’s All in the Mix XF (Shetland Sheepdog)
3rd: Anne Timson – Topflite’s Galiko Spike-Omite MX MXF OF (Papillon)
1st: Paulette Swartzendruber 2008 & 2009 USA/AKC World Team Member
MACH Bare Cove Blue Lite Special (Shetland Sheepdog)
2nd: Angie Benacquisto – MACH2 Dylan MXF (Rat Terrier)
3rd: Alice Michaels – MACH5 Romayne’s Prairie Skye VCD1 TDX XF (Shetland Sheepdog)
1st: Channan Fosty 2009 USA/AKC World Team Member – MACH Hob Nob Cult Classic MXF (Border Collie)
2nd: Daisy Peel – NAC MACH5 Jumpstart Maladjusted Jester XF (Border Collie)
3rd: Barb Davis – MACH4 Hillcrest Zest XF (Border Collie)
The top-scoring dogs from the ISC also compete for the State Team Championship. The state team consists of that state or region’s top four dogs. The top three scores are added together for a cumulative point total. The state with the most points wins. A perfect score is 100 points. Point deductions for a fault or mistake are typically five points.
The Northwest Team (Washington, Oregon and Alaska) came into the state tournament finals in fifth place out of the five qualifying teams. The Northwest was represented by former World Team member Barb Davis with her Shetland Sheepdog Rock-It and her Border Collie Zesty; former World Team member Daisy Peel and her Border Collie Jester; and Robin Kletke and his Papillon Tigger.
At age 10½ years, Tigger has more Master Agility Championship (MACH) titles than any other dog in AKC history (MACH21). But Kletke decided the finals were more than Tigger needed to run. This meant Davis and Peel had to achieve three clean runs without faults to make the Northwestern States competitive for the team championship. Their world team experience kicked in and they turned in three beautiful flawless runs (the only team to do this) and won their first-ever team championship.
Other state team finalists were Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin. Wisconsin was the 2008 defending champion.
The competition for the National Agility Championship ribbons started Saturday with the morning’s standard runs and the afternoon’s jumpers with weaves courses. Competition began after the national anthem and ceremonies. Four different rings ran simultaneously throughout the day, with competition ending around 5 p.m. Some 200 volunteers, judges and AKC officials kept everything moving smoothly. Scores were continually updated and projected onto a screen. People crowded around to see who was on top or if they weren’t in the top group to flip through the results books to see how they’d done. Nearby, those handlers with clean or perfect qualifying runs picked up their placement ribbons or green rosette qualifying ribbons. Results for the Saturday competitions are listed below.
Excitement built Sunday as the hybrid class kicked off the morning. The hybrid course is like a jumpers course with an A-frame and seesaw, so it runs faster than the standard. The course surprised some handlers who found their dogs ducking into an off-course tunnel on the way down the A-frame.
The top-scoring dogs from each jump height (based on a percentage of entries at that height) moved on to the Championship round. But before this took place, the Challenger’s round took place. This round is for dog/handler teams who are runners-up to the finalists. It’s among the most exciting competition of the entire weekend, as handlers push their dogs to the max for the fastest and most accurate runs. The first-place winner of each Challenger round earned a spot in the finals.
The final course toward the title of National Agility Champion brought out the finest in the dog and handler teams. The course had a section with the dog walk, two jumps and a tunnel discrimination that ate up a number of teams. Teams were cheered for their brilliant runs, and the crowd commiserated with the handlers with groans when a dog went off course or make a mistake. The winners were definitely the best of the best, and two 2008 National Agility Champions defended their titles – Daneka Hedges and Dee Anna Gamel.
Congratulations to everyone who won and placed, to all of those who had qualifying rounds, and to everyone for making it to nationals. The 2010 AKC Agility Nationals will be March 26-28 in Tulsa, Okalahoma. I hope you get a chance to make it!
Final Placements for the National Agility Championship:
1 – Daneka Hedges – NAC MACH3 Pal O’Mine Allie (Papillon)
2 – Kimberly Sisak – NAC MACH5 Bomar’s Beanie Baby (Papillon)
3 – Darlene Paul – MACH4 Hawk Hill’s Tobi Bear XF (Pembroke Welsh Corgi)
4 – Karen Wlodarski – MACH7 Candella Cloudberry XF (Papillon)
5 – Daneen Fox – Livewire Its All Gravy AX MXJ (Papillon)
6 – Mary Doyle – Hye’s Never Say Never MX MXJ XF (Rat Terrier)
7 – Angie Benacquisto – MACH Duncan XF (Toy Fox Terrier)
8 – Darlene Paul – Gayhearts Winona The Pooh Bear MX MXJ XF (Pembroke Welsh Corgi)
1 – Dee Anna Gamel 2008 & 2009 USA/AKC World Team – NAC MACH5 Hilltop Kelsi Lee Kinsella NF (Shetland Sheepdog)
2 – Michelle A Beardsley – NAC MACH11 Blue Moon Shine On Willow MXF (Australian Shepherd)
3 – Laura Fearn – MACH7 Triune’s The Unbreakable XF (Shetland Sheepdog)
4 – Barbara A. Bicksler – MACH6 Wistwin Winter At The Beach OF (Shetland Sheepdog)
5 – Susan Crank – MACH2 Trinity Elbereth Serrano OF (Shetland Sheepdog)
6 – John Nys – MACH Majestykbelcroftblinkofaneye (Shetland Sheepdog)
7 – Anne Stocum – Plails Race The Wind MX MXJ NF (Shetland Sheepdog)
8 – Janice Taylor – MACH3 Chip Taylor XF (Papillon)
1 – Paulette Swartzendruber 2008 & 2009 USA/AKC World Team – MACH Bare Cove Blu Lite Special (Shetland Sheepdog)
2 – Jerry Simon – MACH Comebye Ballroom Blitz XF (Border Collie)
3 – Kate Moureaux – NAC MACH Contact Point’s Driven To Win XF (Border Collie)
4 – Karen L. Holik 2008 & 2009 USA/AKC World Team – MACH3 Triune’s Feelin Hot Hot Hot (Shetland Sheepdog)
5 – Angie Benacquisto – MACH2 Dylan MXF (Rat Terrier)
6 – Ashley Deacon 2008 & 2009 USA/AKC World Team – NAC MACH2 Luka De La Brise XF (Pyrenean Shepherd)
7 – Rebecca L. Smith – CH MACH2 Besota’s Great Alaskan Folly CDX RA MXF (American Eskimo Dog)
8 – Terry Le Clair – MACH4 Heath MXF (Border Collie)
1 – Kim Terrill – Hob Nob Classic Tower Of Power CD MX MXJ (Border Collie)
2 – Diane Sanders – MACH3 Quicksilver Don’t Blink CD NF (Border Collie)
3 – Sharon Freilich – MACH Hob Nob Le Cirque MXF (Border Collie)
4 – Barbara Brooks – MACH Comebye Full Speed Ahead XF (Border Collie)
5 – Darlene Paul – MACH Hawk Hill’s Mickey Mouse MXF (Border Collie)
6 – Annie Pyle – MACH2 Lock–Eye’s Lickety–Split (Border Collie)
7 – Donna Rohaus – Mick MX MXJ XF (Border Collie)
8 – Barbara Persson – MACH Barjor’s Virtual Reality Emulator HSAS XF (Border Collie)
1 – Robert Yi – Cap Of Doc MX MXJ (Border Collie)
2 – Carrie K Jones 2008 AKC/USA World Team – NAC MACH2 Sagehill’s Time Steppin’ Jive (Border Collie)
3 – Denise L Thomas – MACH Bluefire My Oh My MXF (Border Collie)
4 – Dudley Fontaine- MACH Top Gun One (Border Collie)
5 – Terry Smorch – MACH Hob Nob Up Tempo Night Flight XF (Border Collie)
6 – Bridget McKnight – MACH Kestrel HSAs NF (Border Collie)
7 – Jean Hood – Rowdy Tanner MX MXJ OF (Border Collie)
8 – Marcus Topps 2008 & 2009 World Team, 2008 FCI World Championship 26” Gold Medalist – MACH2 Peak’s Juice (Border Collie)
26″ Finals (two dogs in final based on size of class)
1 – Olga A Chaiko – Gundam Seed MX MXJ XF (Border Collie)
2 – Channan Fosty 2009 USA/AKC World Team – MACH Hob Nob Cult Classic MXF (Border Collie)
Challenger’s Round Winners:
8” Darlene Paul – Gayhearts Winona The Pooh Bear MX MXJ XF – Pembroke Welsh Corgi
12” Melissa Henning – Plail’s In The Know MX MXJ NF – Shetland Sheepdog
16” Angie Benacquisto – MACH2 Dylan MXF – Rat Terrier
20” Lauren Mitchell – MACH Waldon’s Tobias – Border Collie
24” Denise Thomas – MACH Bluefire My Oh My MXF – Border Collie
26” Olga Chaiko – Gundam Seed MX MXJ XF – Border Collie
Complete results for all the competitions are available on the AKC website.