Posted Date: November 7, 2007
Back in the main arena this year, the top 30 of 200 teams battled for the win. By Karey Krauter and Leona Hellesvig
This year felt like the hottest weather the Games have experienced at this location (95 degrees during these runs), and Ring 1 was particularly hot with the surrounding grandstand seating blocking what little breeze there was. Interesting that after all these years in Scottsdale, the judges still have an all-black dress code (which are admittedly pretty snappy but definitely not "cool").
The two-dog Performance Versatility Pairs ran first followed by the three-dog championship Team Relay. Walk throughs started at 11am in Ring 1 and the final relay team ran at 130pm. As you can see from the course map, there were three distinct sections in the course (unique 10-obstacles courses for leg 1, leg 2, and leg 3 of the Championship relay) with PVP running "leg 3" followed by "leg 2".
In general there were very few off-courses, as the team mentality of "stay on course at all costs" reigned. The most common fault was the A-Frame down contact, especially when it was the anchoring leg. Otherwise, there were a handful of missed weave entries (one of the stand-out themes for all of this year's final classes was outstanding at-speed independent weave entry skills), a couple teeter flyoffs, and a couple unforced errors such as the dog not reading a front cross (especially to the weaves in leg 1) or run-byes, and one dropped baton.
A couple teams lost 5 to 10 seconds when handler #2 executed a long leadout past the weaves before releasing their dog - a classic example of choosing the lead-out time penalty rather then risk the off-course "E" that could result if the sequence was handled from behind.
One of the more exciting places in the course was the championship relay baton exchange between handler #2 and handler #3. Handler #2 completed the leg on the far side of his/her dog from where he/she needed to deliver the baton, resulting in the handler crossing behind the dog in the exchange box to reach handler #3. In this confined space, dog #2 was often underfoot ("Down! Lie down!" Bark! Bark!) of handler #2's path towards handler #3 as well as encroaching on dog #3's path towards the first jump.
One observation about the winning championship team was that their "team shirts," worn by all three handlers, were the all-red Championship Grand Prix finalist polo shirts. A statistic that would be interesting to document would be how many relay and finalist handlers actually had multiple appearances in the various finalist classes - we lost track after noting that Diane Carson, Nancy Kleinhans, Joan Meyer, Kimberly Sisak, Sharon Freilich, Sandy Rogers and several others had made it into the team relay and the PSJ and/or Steeplechase finals and the PNS and/or the Grand Prix finals. We didn't even try to keep track of all the people who have been appearing year after year after year in these championship finals with dog after dog! Plus, consider all the rookie appearances this year that built up from consistently successful performances at local and regional competitions all year long. It's a testament that our finalists, the top performing handlers in this country, are not flukes or flash in the pans.