The Road to the Championships

Originally printed in the 2010 4th Quarter NARA Newsletter

For many competitors in 2010, the road to the Championships started months before the actual trial.  Competing in a series of club, pre-regional and Regional level events throughout the year, competitors tested their dogs, their training and themselves to earn the scores required to compete at the National Championships for the title of Grand Champion.  Some teams would drop off along the way, either making the decision to move up a level, or deciding due to scores that they would wait another year.  But other's made it through the pre-selection process, and finally the Championships arrived.

For SCABR members, the final step of this journey started in an RV.  Although she couldn’t make the trip, club member Brenda Arao graciously agreed to let those of us who could use her RV, and the road trip to Texas began.  4 dogs, Tosco, Kita, Arco, Saxoon and 6 people, Adrian & Laura Centeno, Mark Muccillo, Manuel Montero, Beth Jones and myself all loaded up in Riverside to begin what was going to be a 26 hour, 1400 mile (each way), drive to Texas.  Although a long drive, the beauty of the RV is the ability to move around, make a snack, sleep and even use the restroom if needed, without having to stop for anything other than gas.  And the occasional break for the dogs.  We left Tuesday morning and arrived at Triple Crown early Wednesday afternoon, in time to get on the field for the first day of open field.  

For most of SCABR, Wed and Thurs were spent settling into the hotel and spending time at Triple Crown for open field.   For Erin Suggett and I, those days were also spent with some behind the scenes emergencies.  Shortly before the event, NARA was informed by Dominique Piton that Andrej Skrah, the scheduled decoy from France, was not going to be able to make it.  He was unable to get the proper documentation to come to the US in time, and had to cancel.  The Board of Directors immediately began going through the list of decoys as outlined in our Policies, and extended an invitation to Gregory Poullett, however due to the late notice he was unable to make it.  Next on the list was Fernando Dosta, who happened to already be in Texas training with a local Mondio Ring club.  Fernando was happy to accept the invitation to decoy the NARA Championships, but had to return to France first for business.  Plane tickets were purchased and the show was ready to go on.  The schedule was changed, and then changed again, in an effort to accommodate the decoys, but finally with the input of our judge we went back to the originally advertised schedule, kind of.  At some point during this process the decision was also made to have Matt Nieuwkoop be the alternate decoy.  Late on Thursday though, we received a phone call from Fernando that he was not going to make it on Friday.  He was bringing a dog with him from France, there were some issues with the flights and paperwork, and he was unable to make his connecting flight.  As the alternate decoy Matt willingly stepped up, and the Championship was ready to go on.

Thursday evening all the competitors met with Dave Kroyer and his wife at a local Mexican restaurant for draw night.  After enjoying some good food, good drinks, and good conversation Dave gave a welcome speech and the competitors drew.  Each level had small bottles of Tequila arranged on a table, with numbers on the bottom.  Pick your bottle, and you picked your number.  I drew first for the FRI's, a position I actually like since I can get it over with quickly, and spend the rest of the day taking photographs and relaxing.

Friday morning was open field and also the start of the DSS.  While some competitors used the field for open field, all three decoys trying out for the DSS, Josh McCleary, Matt Nieuwkoop and Yvan Granados started running their laps around the perimeter of the field.  The weather was crazy, ranging from sunny blue skies and reasonably high temps to rain so thick it looked like snow.  During it all the decoys pushed themselves and performed the physical tests for the DSS.  Keeping in mind that they had to work all the Championships dogs, and with the admonishment of Dominique Piton to not burn themselves out, Josh and Matt pushed themselves enough to get passing scores in the physical, but not enough to negatively affect their ability to work all the dogs in the trial over the next few days.  

Once the DSS physical was over, lunch was served and the decoys had a chance to relax for a bit.  Then the FRI's hit the field.  We had a good entry with 6 dogs, 5 from NARA and 1 from Mexico.  4 of the 6 dogs were also qualified to compete in the Championships.  All the dogs turned in passing scores (a requirement for a shot at the Grand Champion title), but some did better than others.  Going into the Championships my girl Kita was solidly in first place, and that's about the only thing that saved her for this event.  Her control in the bite work was less than stellar, and she turned in a 177.5 for the Championships.  But her average throughout the year was still high enough for her to earn the title of FRI Grand Champion.  Next up was Mark's dog Arco. He is fun to watch, he has so much drive and energy when he's good, he's very very good, and when he's bad, he's oh so bad.  But that day, he was good, and turned in one of his best scores all year with a 183.2 for second place in the Cup.  Arturo's dog Sarko was next in the trial.  This dog has some crazy entries, and was a joy to photograph.  Although a NARA team, Sarko didn't have all the pre-requisites to compete for the Championship, but I believe his score of 166.5 finished his FRI title.  I've watched Leslie Gannon's young dog Diablo start the season as a puppy, and mature as both a competitor and a dog, and I think this team is just going to keep getting better.  Their score of 179.4 was enough to earn them 3rd place in the Cup, and the FRI Vice Champion title.  Daniel Artdozaga with his dog Diabolo turned in an excellent performance with a 189, winning the NARA Cup.  Their performance was actually even better, but a handler error on Daniel's part cost him an exercise, knocking him out of the 190's.  The final FRI team was Beth and her Groenendael.  Saxoon may be a fluffy black dog, but he works like a Malinois.  Saxoon is another young dog who has had some really good days and some not so good days.  This wasn't to be one of his better days, but he still turned in a passing score of 165.5, which was enough to edge out team members Mark and Arco by just 0.30 (three-tenths) of a point for 3rd place in the Championships.

Saturday morning the FRIIs hit the field.  There were 4 NARA teams, 3 of them competing for the Championships.  Throughout the year Crack and Aigle have flip flopped in the standings, and this trial was to be no different.  Joey and Crack earned a 266.4, becoming the FRII Grand Champions, while Aigle and Justin turned in a 274.9, winning the NARA Cup.  Next up was Alan and Zip.  Unfortunately it wasn't to be their day, with an NQ score of 196.3.  But if there was going to be a sportsmanship award, I'd give it to Alan.  No matter how his dog is behaving on the field, he keeps his composure and walks around with a smile on his face.  A bad day at the Regionals kept Shannon and Degas out of the running for the Championships, but their score of 267.8 earned them 2nd place in the Cup, and finished Degas FRII title.  

After the FRII's were finished, the FRIII's started.  This is the level where the "big dawgs" play, and it's also where the decoys really start pulling out their tricks.  And let me just say, Josh and Matt had a few new ones for this trial.  Both decoys did a great job of testing the FRIII's, but Josh did something I've never seen at this level of competition.  He managed to sucker 7 of the 9 FRIII's, including the DIW, into biting on the Stopped Attack.  Only Jersey and Rage behaved themselves and didn't fall for Josh's moves.  Matt on the other hand was pulling esquives, and in some cases multiple esquives in a row.  The dogs were going to have to bring their "A games".  On Friday Tosco, Adok, Rage, Enoch, Lothar and Jersey all competed.  As Jersey was going through his routine, light was fading fast, so Vic and Sniper were scheduled to finish on Sunday morning.  Tosco has turned in some excellent scores in the past, but Saturday was not to be his day.  He walked on the field with bite work on the brain, and walked off the field to go dream about more bite work in his crate.  However, his score of 334.225 did ultimately stand as the highest score for the day.  Fernando and Adok were up next.  Adok also failed to hear "stop" in the stopped attack, that combined with some issues in obedience and protection and he turned in a passing score, but not high enough to be in the running for the Cup.  Next up was Brian and Rage.  Neither of these guys has been seen on the trial field in awhile, but considering some "rust factor", this team did very well.  Rage was one of the 2 dogs to actually stop on the stopped attack.  But some issues in the jumps, and being overly amped in the protection cost him points and he finished with a 331.  Dave Kroyer and Enoch hit the field next.  After having watched Dave run around putting out fires, general hosting of the event, etc for the last few days he walked on the field like he didn't have any extra stress, and was just there to trial his dog.  Unfortunately there were some issues and they didn't earn a passing score, but I gotta give him props for being out there and competing in addition to everything else he had going on.  Next up was another DS, Federico and Lothar.  I'm not sure I've ever seen this many DS in one FR trial here in the US, there were stripes everywhere you look.  Lothar is a nice dog, but he also was plagued with that magic stopped attack, meters on escapes, some problems in the jumps.  He finished with a passing score, which put him into second place, a position he'd hold until Sunday morning.  Final dog on the field Saturday was Jersey.  It also wasn't to be his day.  He did a perfect stopped attack, but problems in the jumps, obedience and protection resulted in a final score of 216.359.  So at the end of the day, it was Tosco and the Dutchies, Lothar and Rage, in first, second and third with less than 2 points between first and third.  Sunday morning Richie and Vic hit the field.  Having the night off worked for the dogs, but also worked for the decoys.  They were rested and refreshed, and Josh was ready to take 2 more stopped attacks.  Vic turned in a solid performance, with the stopped attack being his only major point loss, and finished with a 350.35, to put him into first place for the Cup.  The final dog for the III's was Sniper.  He's young in terms of trial experience as an FRIII, but he's talented and well trained.  There were a few "oh no" moments, as he bounced up and down, forward and back, on the line of departure, but he held it together and finished with a 362.175 to win the Cup.  As soon as his score was reported, you could see people racing off to do some math.  When the final scores were all tallied, Vic had just barely edged Sniper out for the title of FRIII Grand Champion by 0.326, less than ½ of a point.

In an effort to give Matt and Josh a chance to relax for a bit before they had to hit the field again to work some dogs for the DSS, the General Membership meeting was held after the last FRIII was finished.  A number of interesting topics were discussed, for more information on the meeting check out the Secretary's meeting minutes earlier in this newsletter.  After the meeting was over, all 3 decoys took their written tests, and then it was time to work some dogs again.

Despite having been working dogs for the last 2 days, both Matt and Josh found some extra reserves, and really pulled out all the stops for this portion of the DSS.  Not only did they continue to work the dogs with the same energy they had been showing all weekend, they even pulled out a few new moves we didn't see in the trial.  Yvan was one of the decoys for the NARA Championships a few years ago, I've seen him work dogs before and put in some very solid work.  Unfortunately some mistakes in the application of the rules during his performance on Sunday resulted in a non passing score for the selection.  When the scores were finally all tallied, the winner of the DSS was Josh McCleary.  Both Josh and Matt were awarded their level 3 status for one more year.  

After the awards were handed out it was time for SCABR to start the long drive home.  Some of us did better than expected, some of us didn't do as well as hoped, but overall I'm proud of my club members and the performances we turned in.  FRI Grand Champion, FRI 3rd and 4th Place in the Championships with only 0.30 points between them, FRI 2nd Place in the Cup, and in FRIII 3rd in the Cup and the Championships.  

Before hitting the road we decided to hit a BBQ restaurant we had frequented a few days earlier, for a good meal and a chance to just sit and relax before the long drive home.  Erin had flown to the Championships, and was planning on flying home, but didn't have a flight back yet.  She was having some difficulties finding a return flight, so the decision was made to have her ride home with us.  We left TX around 7PM on Sunday, heading back through New Mexico and Arizona, and arrived back in Riverside around 10:30PM the next evening.  I have to mention here that 90% of the driving for this entire trip was done by Adrian, Mark and Manuel.  Thanks guys.  After everyone unloaded their dogs and gear, I drove the RV to Vista, did some quick cleaning, and then headed home for a few hours of sleep before work on Tuesday.  Yeah, finally home, and sleeping in my own bed.  

I would really like to thank my Training Director Adrian Centeno, decoys Adrian, Juan Mendoza, Cary Peterson and the various "guest decoys" who come to our club, and all my SCABR club members.  Without their help, and the sometimes dysfunctional, sometime functional dynamics that makes our club special, Kita wouldn't have become the FRI Regional Champion and FRI Grand Champion.  Thanks guys and gals.


Why the Hippos?

By Kadi Thingvall

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at Triple Crown was this blue and orange hippo statue right in the entrance.  Seemed a little odd, but I was later to notice that in Hutto there are hippos EVERYWHERE.  On people's front lawns, out in front of businesses, painted on the sides of buildings, etc., and painted up in a wide variety of ways, from a basic solid color with a logo on the side to wearing bikinis and other clothing.  I started to count "hippo sightings" on the way to and from our hotel, and finally asked someone about the hippos.  According to local legend, in 1915 a circus train stopped in Hutto at the depot to take on passengers, pick up mail and possibly take on water and fuel for the steam locomotive. The circus train workers also took this opportunity to care for their animals. At some point during their layover, it is said that the hippo got out of the railcar and made its way to the nearby Cottonwood Creek causing much consternation for the circus workers. Local farmers and merchants watched the commotion in amusement and with interest as unsuccessful efforts were made to extricate the troublesome hippopotamus from the muddy waters of Cottonwood Creek. Legend goes that the Depot Agent, who at that time would have been Hal Farley, Jr., had to telegraph the communities of Taylor and Round Rock that were eight miles to the east and west of Hutto to the effect of: “Stop trains, hippo loose in Hutto”. After much effort the hippo was prodded from the mud and water that resembled its natural habitat and was reloaded back on the train. Soon afterward the Hutto School adopted the hippopotamus as its mascot and as early as 1923 it appeared on the Hutto High School official graduation announcements. Other stories have been told, however, this is the most popular version of the origin of the hippo in Hutto. 



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