2011 AKC Agility Invitational
By Brenna Fender, photos courtesy of Great Dane Photos
On December 17-18 in Orlando, Florida, at the Orange County Convention Center, hundreds of agility competitors joined conformation exhibitors and obedience handlers to compete in one of the most unique dog sport events in the US. The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, a conformation event, is held in conjunction with agility and obedience invitationals at a site that also offered dock jumping and other demonstrations, as well as a meet-the-breed booths for 160+ AKC recognized breeds. There were also many vendors available, selling almost everything a dog lover could ever want.
The AKC Agility Invitational is different from most national and international agility events because instead of requiring a certain number of qualifying scores or similar criteria, the top five dogs in each AKC breed are invited to compete. Ranking of dogs within each breed is determined by the Top MACH Dog formula (double qualifying scores multiplied by 10 plus x MACH points) and, for this year’s event, the qualifying period included trials run from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. FCI-affiliated countries were also invited to send three dogs per country to the event.
Since only five dogs of each breed were invited, 119 breeds were represented, with 592 dogs running overall; this made for a very different agility experience. It was amazing to see so many different breeds on course, and it was fun and educational to see their different styles of running. Some of the breeds were so rare that I had never seen them in person, let alone on an agility course. What a treat!
The Agility Invitational consisted of five rounds of agility competition. Round #1 was Excellent B Standard; round #2, Excellent B Jumpers with Weaves (JWW); round #3, Excellent B JWW; round #4, Hybrid (made up of 16-18 obstacles using two contacts); and round #5 was the finals, open only to the top 57 dogs overall through the first four rounds of competition, with only one dog from each breed within each jump height allowed. The finals round was a standard agility course and placements were be based on score, then time. Final placements were not cumulative; they were from the final round only. There was also a warm-up FAST run on Friday that was not included in the Invitational cumulative results. Judges Blair Kelly, Michael A Lappin D.V.M., Terri Campbell, and Nalle Jansson (from Sweden) presided.
Many awards were offered throughout the weekend. Cumulative awards were offered after rounds 2, 3, and 4, based on varying criteria depending on the round. Most prizes were monetary or in the form of gift certificates. Rosettes and trophies were also given to the final winners.
The first ever Junior Agility Competition was held on Friday in conjunction with the Invitationals. Fifty one juniors came from 19 different states, handling a total of 66 dogs. Two levels were offered: Junior Excellent (for dogs with any agility title) and Junior Superior. Both levels offered Standard and Jumpers with Weaves classes. Awards were offered for each class and height as well as the overall combined winners after both rounds.
The junior handlers seemed to really enjoy the Junior Agility Competition. Brooke Knotek, from St. Paul, Minnesota, took fourth place in JWW with her Border Collie, Lady. She said, “The courses were very smooth; I liked them a lot. I ran in Excellent Standard and Excellent JWW. Both went very well I was very pleased with myself with how my runs went…. Unfortunately, I will be turning 18 this summer and will no longer be able to compete as a junior, but I can only hope my younger brother will enter with his Border Collie next year. I recommend it to all Juniors it is an experience you will never forget….” Karen Dahle and her daughter, 12" Junior champion Anneka, agreed that the event was “very cool.” Kaitlyn Dreese, who was another big winner at the event, says, “I thought that the Junior [Agility Competition] was great! All the kids had a great time even though there was some tears (good and bad), everyone left with a smile on their faces. For some of the kids it was only a third or fourth show and for others it was just another event. I met a lot of new juniors from other parts of the country and I really appreciate that AKC did this for us. The courses were a little more difficult than what I thought they would be but no one seemed to have too much trouble for it. I’m ready to go back next year.”
The entire Agility Invitational went very smoothly, and competitors seemed to enjoy the experience. Julie Sandoval from Acton, California, says, “I attend most of the big agility events and the AKC Invitational has a special spot in my heart. I truly love seeing all the different breeds compete and love that the finals are not all your typical ‘finals’ dogs! This year’s event was well run and lots of fun. My most memorable moment was watching my Dalmatian Ella step up to the line in finals! Just thrilling!” Carla Konwinski from Oregon, Ohio, also had a great time at the event. She says, “I went to the Invitational with my Pug, Layla. I loved it; it was well run and so huge. I love it because we get credit for doing well and being a Pug (a non-traditional agility breed).”
Of course, no event is perfect. Jeanette Ryman, who traveled from Streamwood, Illinois, to compete with her almost nine-year-old Akita, Nakai, pointed out one flaw in the event: “There were problems all weekend with the sod. It kept being ripped up by the big dogs. AKC representative Doug Hurley ditched the suit and put on jeans and a T-shirt and became the official landscaper, going from ring to ring to fill in holes or replace entire sections of sod. I applaud AKC for dealing with the sod issues.” Even with the sod problems, Ryman thoroughly enjoyed the event. She says, “The courses were challenging, with some having hidden challenges that took the early dogs by surprise. I really only saw the big dogs run, but many of the courses were not big-dog friendly (tight turns from odd angles), but they were fun and looked awesome when handled well.” She praised the Invitational, saying, “Overall, it was run well.” Most competitors appeared to be having a wonderful time and seemed to agree!
Invitational Winners (for full results and courses, visit http://www.akc.org/events/agility/invitational/2011/results.cfm).
8" Tangle (All American Dog / Mixed Breed) and owner/handler Dana Pike
12" T (Poodle) and owner/handler Cathi Winkles
16" Rogue (Australian Cattle Dog) and owner Nicole Carazo/handler Stephen Carazo
20" Miller (Bearded Collie) and owner/handler Karen Barratt
24" Flare (Doberman Pinscher) and owner/handler Yvonne L. Mancino
Junior Agility Competition Winners (for full results and courses, visit http://www.akc.org/events/agility/invitational/2011/junior_results.cfm)
8" Tinkerbelle (Papillon) and Chase Koetter
12" Taufie (Shetland Sheepdog) and Anneka Mikel Dahle
16" Bud (Shetland Sheepdog) and William Zachary Freedman
20" Seacrett (Border Collie) and Kaitlyn Dreese
24" Dash (Belgian Malinois) and Kyle Scripko
8" Tad (Beagle) and Clayton Cook
16" Fuze (Shetland Sheepdog) and Brooke Netherland
20" Karli Renay (Border Collie) and Kaitlyn Dreese
24" Sniffy (All American Dog/Mixed Breed) and Steven Pink