Posted Date: November 7, 2007
For some, Sunday was a day of winding down, while others were winding up to an adrenal maximum. Welcome to center stage! By Karey Krauter
Spectators were given a preview of the Grand Prix final course with the Junior Handler and Veterans showcase events running on the course first. It was interesting to see hints of where the problems would be for the Grand Prix! And, it was poetic to see hints of the next generation of Grand Prix (human) finalists and then of the previous (canine) generation.
The opening to the seesaw was straight-forward with variations on lead-out pivots and moving front crosses, with only a couple dogs dropping or running by the first or second bar (Did they set up too close to first bar? Did they execute the pivot/cross motion prematurely?).
There were several seesaw flyoffs, as expected, as the handlers pushed for speed (and not necessarily because the seesaw had slow action). There were only two flyoffs in the 12" class (out of 13), and none in 16" (out of 15). There were four in 22" (out of 23, not counting one where the dog bounced off the side) and one in 26" (out of 17). There were several notable sliding seesaw that resulted in perfect top-speed execution that had no debilitating bounce upon touch-down.
The sequence from the #3 seesaw to the #5 chute was successfuly handled with a front cross after the teeter, slicing #4 considerably, although at least once this resulted in a run-by of #4. The front cross here also set up handlers well if they wanted to front cross the chute or serpentine #7 after the chute - both requiring the handler to be well ahead of the dog. The sequence also was successful when handled on the left with a rear cross on the flat before the chute, for the handlers that planned to handle the chute and #7 jump from behind.
The chute to the #7 to the tunnel was one of the more problematic (and potentially time-consuming) areas of the course. Handling was pretty much evenly divided between three choices. Handlers who chose to serpentine ahead of #7 were usually not succeeding in getting far enough ahead of #7 before the dog exited the chute, so that the turn after #7 into the #8 tunnel was not well communicated and had to be saved with verbals and quick footwork. No one had their feet knocked out from under them but there were several close calls in both the little and the big dog classes, and there were a couple non-saves where the dog did end up hitting the wrong end of the tunnel. Handlers who chose to front cross in front of the chute and then rear-cross before the tunnel also had trouble with getting into position soon enough, addionally hampered by the lack of room after the chute to catch the dog's exit and communicate a push over #7. With the front cross on the chute there were many dogs going wide behind the handler's back before being recovered to be directed over #7. It seemed like the best and shortest lines were being achieved by the handlers who rear-crossed the #7 and then rear-crossed the tunnel, especially if the rear cross (lead change?) was well communicated while the dog was in the chute.
This year had its share of dogwalk and A-Frame faults, these being the obstacles whose execution speed this year may have been what made or broke a dog's time. Seems like we saw more running contacts than ever this year, most of which succeeded! Are we seeing a changing of the guard in top-echelon contact training?
A second problematic area of the course was the #11-#12-#13 pinwheel out of the weaves to the A-Frame. While this area didn't seem to incur many faults (dropped bars a couple times), it did seem to be the area where all the speed was bled off the dog, perhaps not to be regained until after the A-Frame. All but a couple handlers did a front cross after the #11 tire (especially since the weaves gave them a chance get ahead into position). Once in front cross position, many handlers ended up losing forward motion while waiting for the dog to commit to #12, and/or got a wide turn as they gave the dog an extra wide path from #12 to 13 and then had trouble getting rolling again towards the A-Frame while handling a tight turn off of #13. Interestingly, the winning runs in 16" and in 22" did not do the front cross after the tire, doing a rear cross on the flat after #13 instead - the path of these dogs was tight and never lost speed (which of course is always true of winners Luka and Juice, isn't it?).
The final problematic area of the course was the turn from #16 to #17. This wasn't an off-course opportunity but it was definitely an efficiency opportunity. We saw every possible handler path: handling all on the inside in which a call kept the turns mostly pretty tight, and then rear crossing #19 to the finish), or front crossing after #16 (with several just-in-time crosses and several with the dog initially going wide behind the handler), or a front cross after #17 (if the handler didn't need to go deep into #15-#16-#17).
With the crowd going wild over the home stretch and the handler pushing as hard as they had for the entire course, it wasn't surprising that there were several dropped hurdles in this line of jumps. Amazingly enough with the speed built up along this final straight line, only a couple dogs missed the cue to make the turn at #19 and ended up running wide around the finish.
Overall impressions: faster and more accurate than ever this year, plus the usual outstanding judging!