Over 1,200 dogs (95 different breeds) from 46 states made the trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma to run at the American Kennel Club (AKC) National Agility Championship (NAC). I stayed home with the kids and dogs while Sarah made the trip to organize the Before and After course, which was again a huge success as participants got the insider view into the minds of our handlers as well as the NAC event. Bad Dog Agility Podcast Co-Host and Instructor Jennifer Crank qualified 3 dogs (Sheltie Bee 16”, Border Collie Jack Daniels 20”, Sheltie Lucky 12” Preferred) for the Finals.
While 4Legged Flix provided the video coverage for each preliminary round and the Challengers round, it was AKC.tv that provided the camera work for the Finals. Carolyn Manno and Terry Simons provided the commentary on the stream for the Finals, while Phil Murphy reported from ringside and conducted interviews of the winners. In his opening monologue, Phil described the NAC as “the Super Bowl of the sport.”
Shoddy Camera Strategy
Once again, the numerous rapid mid-run cuts from camera to camera detracted from the fluid wholeness of each competitor’s run. By zooming in so tightly on the dogs, the viewer lost sight of the handler, and thus could not grasp the complex interplay between dog and handler. Without seeing the handling, it’s much more difficult to grasp the communication and connection that takes place in the ring. There are more than enough opportunities to zoom in quite naturally, like when the dog is on the dogwalk or weaving, as well as in slow motion after the run, which is probably the best time to show the dogs performing obstacles up close. I have the same criticism for some of the Crufts events in the UK.
Zooming in on the dog also hurts the commentary. You can’t understand the “wide turn” that Terry refers to without seeing the obstacle in context. What surrounding obstacles are catching the dog’s eye?
At one point during the Finals, several 16” dogs NQ’d, and this led to the following awkward exchange between Carolyn and Terry, which takes place at the 47:25 mark HERE:
Carolyn: “Terry, you’re a 30-year agility dog competitor and trainer. You are a national agility champion. What have we seen so far in this 16” class? This is nerves, mistakes? You gotta clean it up!”
Terry: “We need to see some people come in here and lay down another clean round because you don’t want to go in here, knowing what you have to do, and not be able to do it.”
Carolyn: “Five more dogs and handlers still to take this course, which has puzzled and perplexed many of the competitors so far…”
Terry: “But it just seems to be perplexing to the 16” division right now. This class, you know, it happens sometimes, it just gets contagious I guess, I’m not quite sure.”
Were the 16” dogs that bad? Let’s take a look at the qualifying rate by height in the Finals:
Of note, the fastest dog in all heights was the 16” winner, Emily Klarman and Vanish, with a time of 28.659 which was the only dog in all heights to break the 30-second barrier.
If you were Terry, how would you have answered Carolyn’s question?
Finals Course Design
Last night, our VIP members had the opportunity to chat with Heather Dickinson, the person who designed and judged the Finals course. We had a fantastic discussion about her thoughts on the Finals, how the course ran, and how she designed the course. Heather shared that her process started with this question: “What makes a National Champion?”
The discussion was so good that Heather will be publicly sharing how the course evolved from her initial design to what you saw on the livestream! I hope you join us Thursday night for this unique opportunity to get an insider’s view into the event. Register for the Evolution of the AKC National Agility Championship Finals Course with Judge Heather Dickinson webinar HERE; the live webinar begins at 6 pm Central on Thursday, March 23rd.
Personally, I (along with Jennifer and Sarah) loved this course, and the critical obstacle to me was jump #15.
The Regular Finals Winners [Click HERE for Finals Results]
8” Winner Andrea Samuels and Papillon Gabby (Time 35.718)
I loved Andrea’s comment that she thought her dog was the “Simone Biles” of dog agility. Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts of all-time, has won multiple Olympic gold medals in addition to numerous world championships in various events. Props to Andrea for advancing the conversation about athletic excellence past the Michael Jordan era (the 1990s), as I grew up hearing people at the top of non-basketball sports referred to by the media as the “MIchael Jordan” of their sport.
12” Winner Cynthia Hornor and All-American Nimble (Time 30.012)
Most of the 12” class was a poodle Battle Royale, with Laura Dolan and Coos putting forth a magical run with exceptional handling (31.521), just slightly ahead of fellow Poodles Maui and Skye (a former AKC Invitational Winner). Coos held onto the hot seat until Cynthia Hornor and All-American Nimble ripped through the course with phenomenal ground speed that overcame a few wide turns. Interestingly, ring-side interviewer Phil Murphy actually asked about “that ground speed leading to wide turns,” to which Cynthia replied, “sometimes you have to make sure she’s going to look at the right next line because she can be a little wide because she doesn’t always like to slow down to have a tighter turn, but usually her ground speed will make up for any wide turns that she has.” Cynthia also won the NAC last year, although it was in the 24C class with her border collie Truant.
16” Winner Emily Klarman and Border Collie Vanish (Time 28.659)
Emily and Vanish put in a well handled run with a stunning dogwalk performance that lifted them above every other dog in the entire event, beating a very smooth run from runners up Casey Keller and Liri (who had a rare but beautiful blind cross before the weave poles). PODCAST ALERT: Emily, along with the 20” winner Perry DeWitt, will be joining us on the Bad Dog Agility Podcast next week!
20” Winner Perry DeWitt and Border Collie Wit (Time 30.003)
Wit was the Challenger round winner and ended up running fairly early in the order. With a running dogwalk, Wit put in a sensational clean run that put a lot of pressure on the rest of the class, which had several fast border collies with running contacts. None could best Wit. When the final team faulted with an immediate refusal after the dogwalk, Terry exclaimed, “You don’t want to win that way!” I understand the point he was trying to make, which is that you’d love to beat a tough field where everyone runs clean and you’re still the winner, but actually, Terry, it’s a perfectly fine way to win. Every one of those dogs took their shot at Wit, and when the dust literally settled, Wit was the champ.
24” Winner Steve Basson and Weimaraner Hogan (Time 37.579)
Steve and Hogan held off a small Finals field of six dogs that included another Weimaraner handled by Lori Barbee as well as Amber McCune and her Border Collie Howie. The a-frame tripped up both would-be winners, as Lori’s Weimaraner ran around it while the Border Collie missed the down contact, resulting in the big win for Hogan.
24C Winner Amber McCune and Border Collie Typo (Time 31.137)
Fresh off the missed a-frame in 24”, Amber rebounded to take home the win in the 24C class, which will not exist at future NAC events. Four of six dogs ran clean, with less than a second separating Typo, Maui Jim, and Wynn, all border collies. Amber won the 24” class last year with her Border Collie Kaboom.
The Preferred Finals Winners [Click HERE for Finals Results]
P4” Antonia Rotelle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Zoom (Time 38.609)
P8” Paiboon Tanapipatkulchai and Supavee Janlekha and Poodle Aleena (Time 37.172)
P12” Karena Kosco and Border Collie Jax (Time 31.698)
P16” Mia Grant and Border Collie Rich (Time 31.918)
P20” Hayley Mack and All American Dog Strider (Time 37.704)
Thank you to the AKC for hosting a great event, and congratulations to all of the competitors who ran! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments about NAC, and let me know what you think about the 16” regular class qualifying rate.