by Brenna Fender

By Brenna Fender

Photos by In Motion Photos

The third annual UKI US Open, the UK Agility International’s United States national championship, and the tryout event for the World Agility Open Team USA, took place the first weekend in November 2013 in Fletcher, North Carolina. The event, which was judged by Becky Dean and Lee Gibson, had many classes open to all dogs rather than only to those that had met a set of preliminary requirements. The Open, organized by Greg and Laura Derrett partnered with Mike and Jan Padgett of Rocketdogs, drew top competitors from many agility organizations as well as handlers with less experience who wanted to try out some new challenges in the sport. Competitors came from near and far to try out this relatively new venue: Canada, California, New York, Texas, Washington, and many more locations across North America had representatives in attendance.
The Open consisted of five different events, each resulting in a National Championship title: Agility Biathlon, Games Biathlon, Speedstakes, Masters Series Final, and UKI Open National Championship.
  • The Agility Biathlon had no requirements to enter and was made up of one round of Agility and one round of Jumping. Scores from those two classes were combined to create the Biathlon winners, and the first place dog from each height was offered a place on the World Agility Open US team.
  • The Games Biathlon also had no requirements to enter. It consisted of one round of Gamblers and one round of Snooker. Scores from those two rounds were combined to determine the Games Biathlon winners.
  • Speedstakes had a course design of pipe tunnels and jumps only. It was designed to allow dogs to open up in a fast and flowing course. The two-round event also had no requirements to enter. There were both Novice and Championship level Speedstakes.
  • The Masters Series Final required prequalification in a local Masters Heat or in the Last Chance Heat at the Open itself. The Masters Series Final was a two-round event consisting of Jumpers and Agility and was scored by faults plus time.
  • The UKI Open National Championship consisted of two runs. It did not require prequalification but success in local competitions could have resulted in a bye into the second round.
In addition to the potential to place in five different National Championship events at the Open, there was another opportunity to join the World Agility Open USA team. Dogs and handlers who placed in the UKI Open final round or in the Masters Series Final earned points and those with the most in each jump height won a spot on the team.
Event judges put forth a lot of effort to make sure that their courses offered a true taste of the challenges and styles of UKI Agility. Becky Dean says, “Knowing Marq Cheek had judged at the World Agility Open last year, I wrote to him as I started working on courses [for the UKI Open]. He was very helpful. He…helped me understand the types of challenges that would be appropriate for the UKI event, understanding that members of the US Team would be selected [there].The courses presented by both Lee and myself tested teams in ways I had never seen (or in some cases, imagined) before, and all the teams rose to the occasion. The course design approach I chose after working with Marq was to [review] a group of recommended courses from previous WAO events to help me ensure I understood the types challenges appropriate for this event. I set up parts of a few of them in my backyard to get a better feel for the lines and options of flows and worked to put them together to create a unified flow. People at the event who have run a good number of my courses over the years commented that they were very different and I was thrilled to know that I had been able to capture some of those unique flavors in my designs.”
Competitors praised this year’s Open for many reasons, including the courses. Mary Ellen Barry, who frequents the podium at national and international events, says, “I thought the courses were exactly as they should be for an event of this caliber. Becky and Lee did an excellent job of presenting us with challenges such as difficult weave entries, backsides of jumps and tunnels, threadles, 270s, and running! In addition, they gave opportunities for the dogs to open up and extend. I really loved the courses.I really like the fact that I can run international courses at an important event in my own country. While traveling overseas is exciting, it is also stressful, tiring, and expensive. I love that I don’t have to leave my home soil to compete at an event like this.” Internationally known competitor Daisy Peel, who attended with her Border Collie, Solar, agrees with many of Barry’s comments: “I really enjoyed attending the US Open for the first time this year…. I loved that there were so many highly challenging, international style courses. Having said that, there were still several courses that were not-so-international in flavor, although they were still challenging.” Peel also complimented the UKI for allowing bitches in season to compete at its event. Peel’s main complaint was about the Open’s timing, since it occurred just a week after the United States Dog Agility Association’s Cynosport World Games. She says that many competitors had to choose between one event or the other. Next year’s UKI Open will take place a month after (and across the country from) Cynosport, so this will not be an issue.
Another internationally successful competitor, Dudley Fontaine, is very enthusiastic about the Open. She says, “I enjoyed the UKI Open I attended in Santa Rosa last year and enjoyed this year’s Open in Fletcher even more! It’s exciting to watch this venue evolve and improve. I really, really love the UKI US Open!” Fontaine enjoys the “fun and challenging courses” as well as the talented and motivated handlers in attendance.
Unlike other national and international events, the UKI Open included competitors who didn’t have a lot of experience in the venue, like Soshana Dos, who came from Connecticut to compete with her Border Collie, Glance. “This was my first time at the UKI Open. Like me, most of the competitors there were not terribly familiar with UKI and many of us were learning about the different classes as we ran them! The event’s organizers and the judges were extremely accessible throughout the competition and were willing to answer any questions we had. I found the courses to be very challenging and incredibly fun. The site was fantastic, the footing was great, and everything ran very smoothly…. While it was a smaller event, the dogs and handlers that were there were stellar. I had as much fun watching some of the best teams in the country tackle the courses as I did running them myself. The camaraderie between the competitors was fun, friendly, and competitive all at the same time. There was tons of cheering from your fellow competitors and from the judges as well, who did a phenomenal job of bringing difficult challenges while keeping it waa-hoo fun for the dogs and handlers alike. When word gets out that the US Open is an amazing event, I doubt it will stay small for long,” says Dos. She also praised the “not for competition” option offered during a Sunday morning class. She says, “It was great to be able to bring a toy into the ring and reinforce my contacts in the middle of a National event!”
Dos is not the only competitor who mentioned that the Open was a smaller national event. But handlers praised this aspect. Barry says, “I am really starting to prefer the smaller events. I would compare the size of this event to the IFCS World Agility Championships and the IFCS Continental Championships of the Americas, both of which run one ring at a time. I really like this because I can feel more relaxed as a competitor and always be worrying about where to be or which ring to watch. A true national or world championship should attract the best competitors and if the event is small then everyone in attendance can watch the best competitors in all of their runs. The really large events are starting to lose their appeal for me. They sometimes feel more like a stamina event than the true test of the best.”
Event organizer Jan Padgett agrees with Dos that the camaraderie at the event was part of what made it exceptional. She says, “I would have to say the event was special because of the high level of competition combined with the camaraderie…. Even with the championship on the line, as well as spots on Team USA for the WAO, nearly everyone pitched in to help at some point. There were many times when I had put myself down to work a class and I was stopped along the way by someone saying ‘you have other things to do, I’ve got this,’ and one of the competitors stepped up and filled my post. At one point Mike [Padgett] stopped me and said ‘Take a look.’ We had an entire ring crew made up of current and former National Champions. You don’t see that every day.”
Laura Derrett, who runs UK Agility International and spearheaded the Open, was very pleased with this year’s event. “We were thrilled with the third annual UKI US Open. Not only did we work with well-organized and great people like Mike and Jan Padgett, but our judges, Becky Dean and Lee Gibson, were top notch; both very professional, setting interesting and challenging courses while helping to set a relaxed and fun atmosphere. We’d once again like to thank the amazing amount of help we received to run such a great event. Even many of those that were competing for the win on spots for WAO Team USA stepped in to help. We are extremely grateful for our sponsors who each individually sponsor one of the Finals: Clean Run, 4 Legged Flix, Advanced Canine Rehabilitation Center, HitItBoard.com, Ultimate Agility and equipment sponsored by Doggy Jumps from the UK.”
Congratulations to the 20313 UKI Open Champions:
Novice Speedstakes Champions
16(s)" Judy Wiltsek and Skyla
16" Judy Reilly and Tempest
20" Emily Hurt and Ricochet
22" Katie Oilschlager and Merit
26" Julie Delarue and Whatamess
Championship Speedstakes Champions
8" Betsey Lynch and Wren
12(s)" Natalie Bayless and Reggie
12" Andy Mueller and Crackers
16(s)" Terry Herman and Chantey
16" Melanie Miller and Smitten
20" Maddie Speagle and Gabe
22" Rebecca Thrift and Spank
26" Soshana Dos and Glance
Games Biathlon Champions
16(s)" 1 Terry Herman and Chantey
12" Andy Mueller and Crackers
16" Judy Reilly and Rivet
20" Mary Ellen Barry and E-Z
22" Mary Ellen Barry and Maizy
26" Sarah Duke and Kate
Biathlon Overall Champions
16(s)" Katie Oilschlager and Beacon
8" Betsey Lynch and Wren
12" Terry Herman and Idgie
16" Jen Pinder and Taser
20" Mary Ellen Barry and E-Z
22" Dudley Fontaine and Sweet
26" Melanie Miller and Integrity
Masters Final Champions
8" Oksana Syrkin and Merit
12" Andy Mueller and Crackers
16" Cassandra Schmidt and Bliss
20" Mary Ellen Barry and EZ
22" Tracy Hirsch and Silver
26" Soshana Dos and Glance
UKI National Champions
16(s)" Katie Oilschlager and Beacon
8" Betsey Lynch and Wren
12" Andy Mueller and Crackers
16" Maureen Waldron and Mickle
20" Mary Ellen Barry and E-Z
22" Dave Grubel and Boca
26" Lori Michaels and Solei
For more results from the UKI US Open, visit https://www.ukagilityinternational.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleID=66.
Click here for all of the courses from the event.
Attendance at the UKI Open has increased every year in its existence. There was a 25% increase in entries between the first and second events. This year, there was an increase of nearly 40%. Show managers anticipate a larger increase in 2014, when the Open will again be held in Fletcher, North Carolina, on November 14-16. The Padgetts will again be working the event with the Derretts and Clean Run’s own Monica Percival, and planning has already begun. Derrett says, “Due to feedback from this past year, we have already restructured some of the classes and schedule for next year and have changed some of the running order rules to better accommodate those with multiple dogs.”
Next year’s UKI Open will continue to further UKI’s goals for agility. Derrett says, “With UKI, our goal is to provide competitors with events that allow for creative and challenging course design while keeping the social and stress-free atmosphere so important to our vision. We also strive to constantly improve not only the events themselves but the rules we all run under as we believe agility should be a growing sport in all aspects, from the technical elements such as course design with standardized and safe equipment to improving outdated rules and advocating fair and positive dog training practices. Competitor feedback is extremely important and a necessary and valuable tool in improving our sport.”
The 2014 Open will be judged by Anthony Clarke of Lechlade City, England, and Judy Reilly of New York. Entries open September 1, 2014 and close on October 18. Once again, the event will be open to all dogs and handlers regardless of their level in UKI and there will be no pre-qualification necessary to enter classes, with the exception of the Masters Series Final. Dogs and handlers do not need to be UKI members to compete at the Open, but a UKI account must be created to enter the event. This can be done online at www.ukagilityinternational.com, where you can find answers to many of your questions about the Open in specific and UKI in general. An overview of the rules for next year’s UKI US Open are available by clicking here: https://www.ukagilityinternational.com/DynamicContent.aspx?PageName=USOpen. A draft of the premium can also found at that link.
UKI is a user friendly organization that is easy to work with offering clubs, training centers and private individuals trial hosting options to suit their needs. For information on hosting a local UKI trial, please contact laura@ukagility.com.