Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 AAC National Championships - Part 2 The Trial and Results

Since this year was my first Regionals, it only follows that this was my first Nationals as well!

I was supposed to share hotel and benching with our friend and trainer Kim, but that plan changed when Spryte went into heat a couple of months earlier than anticipated. So now I was on my own - but agility is about you and your dog right? So I hoped it would be okay. Besides, there would be other people up there I would know and could hang out with - just no other people I had really trained with before.

Baxter making sure we're organized with the catalog

I also a little concerned about the layout, being able to find everything and about conflicts running Spencer in Regulars and then Baxter in Specials. This was a bit of an issue at Regionals, but since I sort of knew how to deal with it from Regionals I wasn't too worried about it for Nationals.

The trial venue was awesome. Really nice grass to run and exercise/play ball on. There was also a lake to swim in less than a 10 min walk away and some lovely pathways to walk the dogs on. Swimming at the lake was a hit until I accidentally threw Spencer's bumper into the cattails on Saturday and then wouldn't let him try to get it back (I couldn't see it and I didn't want him to drown if he got stuck in the plants.)

Nationals was an absolutely amazing experience.

Ribbons, ribbons everywhere!
L - Individual round placements 1-10th     R- Aggregate placement ribbons for each class 1-10th

We made some new agility friends with local and out of town people. From people going out to grab takeout supper to eat at the trial site, to joining buddies at the banquet, to random helpful strangers (who turned out to be running in 6" specials with Baxter) helping set up the shade tent.

The energy and tension during some events was just crazy. During the last day running the final 26" regular dogs there must have been over 100 spectators surrounding that ring - and when the top 10 dogs were running it got progressively quieter, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop for the final 2 dogs (who were 1st and 2nd place for that height.) The crowd cheering on the dogs with silent tension was crazy, like we were worried about distracting from a clean run.

Steeplechase Finals were just the opposite, same energy but now that energy was given sound. The fighter jet flyover (convenient timing!) doing The Wave around the ring waiting for the event to begin, watching some truly amazing dogs with fabulous handling and training.

Baxter - 2nd Overall in 6" Specials

I am so proud with how well my boys did at Nationals! We struggled through some things, realized others and grew as a team. Both dogs really tried for me and ran well in some pretty warm conditions. Both had moments of brilliance that will only get better! I figured out some more of the mental management side of things that I have taken for granted before, and like the dogs, will only get better!

After Regionals with Baxter and having no expectations, I did have some going into Nationals I won't lie. I wanted to hit the podium with him (like in the Olympics -  you get Gold, Silver or Bronze so I wanted 1-3 place.)

We did succeed.  Baxter placed 2nd overall in 6" Specials with 439.44 points. He was a good little Fluffy, but if bad luck had not befallen a fellow competitor in one of their rounds we would have been third. Still a very good placement in my mind, especially for our first Nationals with only 2 clean runs. We had a couple of little bobbles here and there, due to some handler nerves and some stress when Baxter wouldn't work away AT ALL in Gamble 1. Then towards the end of the weekend, more moments of brilliance, his Standards were lovely, weaves were great and he almost managed to get Gamble #2 just ran out of time (and then flew off the teeter ...)

Baxter with all his ribbons.
We were trying to do it like Pokemon and collect one of each placement.
We did get a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th! but then a 7th and 8th to ruined our chance to get a flush!
He also took 2nd in the Steeplechase #2 qualifier round, earning his first legit steeplechase Q on a course with 2x 12 weaves 3 seconds under SCT!

Spencer did amazing. He missed ending up in the aggregate placement ribbons by less than 6 points, placing 12th overall in 10" Regulars with 419.25 points, which is more than he earned at Regionals!  He did however earn a couple placements in individual runs, placing 7th in both his Jumpers runs and 4th in Standard 1!

For the dog that I thought was not going to weave at all at Nationals (a story for another time) to actually run and run well was enough of a achievement in and of itself. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I am so happy with my baby dog.

Spencer ran 3 clean rounds, and did better in Gamblers than he has before. I knew he was in 10th place going into the final Standard on Sunday and I am sure that I inadvertently screwed up his run with handler nerves too. So things to learn and work on for sure, but some great successes as well.

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