Posted Date: November 4, 2007
Finals plus mild Arizona night air plus our favorite dogs that we have seen excel through the years equals party time in the grandstands! By Karey Krauter
The celebrating begins for the spectators while the Performance National Standard finalists are walking their course. We buzz over who we know made it, exclaim over who we see in the walkthrough that we didn't know had made it, and chatter over how close we were to making it ourselves (or not). Seeing our buddies make it is our brush with celebrity and seeing how excited, nervous, and totally charged up they are is absolutely infectious.
Part of the spectator merry-making is expressions of regional pride. You could always tell when a competitor was from Texas or from California because different large sections of the stands would erupt in cheering and cow bells. There also seemed to be cheering sections for Colorado and Oregon, perhaps other regions too! I did have to laugh over a couple sound bites from spectators sitting near me while watching people in the walkthrough. One comment: "There's Ken Fairchild with Echo, and there's Reggie Rogers with Joplin, and there's Darlene Woz with Paperwork (and no, Darlene was not running a dog named Paperwork, she was just out on the course doing something administrative).
Another great sound bite developed into a suspenseful sitcom with a happy ending: "Raymond, we can't tell what the course is from here, what is the course?"
Raymond: "I don't know. Why are you asking me?"
Spectator: "Because aren't you running it? I saw your name on the running order!"
At this point Raymond Jang's wife Mardee asked Raymond if he had actually checked the final results of the PNS Semis and he admitted he stopped looking before the class was done when he thought he had already dropped off the leader board (in fact he took 4th in the 8" class). By this time the walkthrough was wrapping up. Raymond dashed to the field to ask if he could still get a couple minutes to walk the course and Mardee dashed to the car a half mile away to get the dog, Tater, in time to run in the first jump height. With consummate professionalism and a cool head, Raymond worked out the not-obvious course in a couple minutes, changed into his new official finalist beige polo shirt, and then ran the course cleanly to take 5th place. Congratulations Raymond!
The course was very straight-forward with several side-change challenges and a couple straight-aways where the handlers were left in their dogs' dust. There were several faults called on the dogwalk as the handlers at the beginning of the course were trying to build up to maximum speed as quickly as possible. There were astonishing performances of independent straight-ahead contact position as handlers left their dogs at the dogwalk contact to cross into position for the next two jumps (#4-#5). The small dogs in particular were all very careful about the teeter, which was known to have very heavy slow action that provoked flyoffs. The big dogs had less trouble on the teeter, their weight overriding the teeter's heaviness. However, any dalliance to babysit at the teeter resulted in several exciting solutions to pushing the dog out ahead over the straight #7-#8 line to the #9 tunnel entrance; many handlers were rewarded for their trust in telling the dog to continue straight on to the tunnel, while other handlers had the dog curl back towards them after #8 (buying an off-course over #10) or the dog would get pushed out to the incorrect end of the #9 tunnel when the handler encouraged the distance with an out command or body motion. Another time-telling challenge was asking for a tight turn from #10 to #11. There were several ways to handle the long jump-to-A-Frame line after that, either changing sides before the long jump while the dog was turning on the flat, or crossing in front of the long jump, or executing the cross all the way at the down contact of the A-Frame while pushing the dog into the weave entry.
The weave entries, looking a little blind coming off the A-Frame, were all phenomenally fast and accurate. The last three jumps to the finish were just a bust-your-buns straight sprint while the spectators went wild acclaiming the successes of the run. The running order of the dogs in each jump height was determined by their placement in the Semis, with the winners of the Semis running last in each jump height. So it was interesting to see the dogs early in the running order putting up very good clean times, while (especially in the 16" class, which is the big Performance class akin to the Championship 22" class) the dogs later in the running order were under pressure to beat the earlier times and were taking often unsuccessful risks. You all know the superstitious behavior we all execute when watching agility - halfway through the 16s, we wondered if we jinxed the class when we carelessly said "Wow, it looks like every run in this jump height is going to be clean!" Then the train starting coming off the tracks a little. It was heartbreaking and exhilarating! Congratulations to all the winners -Kimberly Sisak and Pheobe, Barbara Bicksler and Sydney, Sandy Rogers and Brink, and Julie Koblin and Elvis - and congratulations to all the finalists who inspire us to keep on training and pushing and trusting our dogs!