Posted Date: November 4, 2007
Course analysis, what's hot, what's not. By Karey Krauter
The spectators got a fun preview of the PSJ/Steeplechase finals course when our celebrity judges ran loaner dogs on the exact course; and Patty Drom's and Greg Louganis's celebrity runs looked actually quite competitive. Their loaner dogs were quite game! Seeing the competition then immediately start with the "real" dogs was a wake-up call to how to really run the sequences!
All but one of the competitors did a lead-out pivot or moving front cross to handle jumps #1-2 to the #3 tunnel. It was thought provoking to see Susan Garrett and Decaff handle #1-#2-#3 to the weaves sequence all on the outside without any side changes. Was it faster? For the rest of the handlers, a front cross was needed in front of the #4 weaves with barely (or not) enough time to achieve it, resulting in the dogs shooting out of the tunnel behind the handler's back before being scooped back in front of them into the weaves.
The down A-Frame contact after the weaves was a big bugaboo for many runs as the handlers were really pressing for speed at this point as they entered the wide sweeping speed #7-#10 part of the course where they could really make up time. That's what the championships are all about - putting the year's worth of diligent contact training to its ultimate test.
Unlike the hogback long jump used in Wednesday's Grand Prix Classic run, where there were many faults going both ways on it, very few dogs (one?) had faults on the normal ascending long jump in this course.
An interesting part of the course was the counter-clockwise #12-#15 pinwheel before the second set of weaves, where a lot of dogs didn't read the pinwheel turn and launched long/wide over #13. The handlers that went deep into the pinwheel seemed to get the tightest turn around the pinwheel. There were several unforced errors in this area as handlers tried to shortcut the handling to get ahead of their dogs or get more speed out of the dogs (pulling off jumps, and so).
The entries into the second set of weaves were phenomenal despite the fact #15 aimed the dogs right at the second pole. Some handlers helped the entry a little with a front cross or a tad of shaping but many just fearlessly and successfully dived directly into it. After this second set of weaves, the handlers were seeing the home stretch and some paid for noticing it - the push into the #17 tunnel was sacrificed many times as handlers rushed to get ahead to handle the subsequent (significant) push to #18, resulting in pulling the dogs off the correct end of #17 and buying the wrong end instead.
Most teams negotiated #18 to the "hard" end of the tunnel at #19 well, some getting the line to #19 set up nicely as they pushed the dog more deeply outward coming out of the tunnel, while others just got a nice turn out of the dog after #18. Only a few dogs bought the wrong end of #19. Once the dog was in #19 the handlers really turned on the speed to sprint to the finish jump. The sprint there was critical, especially considering finish time differences of 0.01 or 0.02 seconds!
Sound bite of the evening: finalist Kevin Normoyle with BC Jill after he had his run and joined his friends in the stands: "When I saw you guys in the stands from the start line I wanted to wave and yell 'Hi' but then I thought 'Oh wait, maybe I better pay attention now!'"
Congratulations to Performance winners Kimberly Sisak and Pheobe, Susan Anderson and Jenny, Sandy Rogers and repeat winner Brink by just .01 second, and Teresa Rodney and her youngster Sprint! By the way, this year's Performance Speed Jumping finalist polo shorts looked great! Congratulations to Championship winners Shelly Permann and Letti, Ashley Deacon and repeat winner Luka (by more than a second), Rosanne DeMascio and Drifter, and Ann Braue and Spree (by .02 seconds). Congratulations to all the finalists on lightning speed and accuracy through three rounds of screaming wheels-off-the-track runs!