Each year, we strive to make the Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Canine Disc Championship better than the year before. We faced some additional challenges this year with a weakening economy, two hurricanes, high gas prices, gas shortages, and a new host city. But despite these hurdles, our wonderful community came together just as we always do, to celebrate the glorious bond between canine and human.
I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the Worlds feels as much like a family reunion as it does a sporting event for the world’s best disc dog teams. This year, our “family” included teams from Belgium, Canada, Hungary, Japan, and from all points of the compass here in the U.S. In a show of true dedication to the sport, a competitor from Japan — Rieko Arai — went so far as to quit her full-time job when she couldn’t get the time off from work to attend the World Championship!
Those who came early to Chattanooga, Tennessee, learned why we selected Chattanooga as the venue for the 2008 Worlds. Disc doggers took their canines to “See Rock City,” and a plethora of other dog- friendly spots. Quite a few of you took riverboat cruises along the Tennessee River, visited the aquarium, watched an IMAX movie, ate at the fabulous eateries, or enjoyed other Chattanooga attractions.
Everyone I spoke with seemed to feel that Chattanooga’s motto, “The Scenic City” was an understatement. Judging by the positive comments made by competitors and visitors, we will be working hard in the off- season for an encore performance in 2009!
This year, our World Championship week began a few days early as we arrived in Chattanooga on Tuesday to begin pre-event media. The World Championship was heavily promoted and enthusiastically supported by the Chattanooga media and disc doggers were treated to an avalanche of newspaper, radio and television coverage.
On Thursday evening, Hyperflite co-hosted a welcome reception with the South Paws Dog and Disc Club (http://skyhoundz.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=24), a new club with a multi-state membership and a multi-organizer mentality. We thank South Paws for their support and wish them well in their new endeavor.
On Friday, at the North River Soccer Complex, a whopping 240 teams competed in the Last Chance Open Qualifier for the final 14 invitations to the World Championship. Qualifying at the “Last Chance Open Qualifier” is always a battle and this year was no exception.
Qualifying in the Open were:
Open: Lawrence Frederick & Harley Davidson, Tony Hoard & Rory, Lawrence Frederick & Easy Rider, Chandler Curtis & Loco
MicroDog: Karl Soderburg & Seiko Mako, Katherine Ferger & Tallulah, Frank Montgomery & Gracie Lou
Pairs Freestyle: Mark Gose/Denise Thornton & Mia, Angela Ewtushik/Rick Rauwerda & Rally, Mark Muir/Preston Dean & Gipper
Sport: Kevin Eroskey & Brook, Nate Bednar & Marcy, Preston Dean & Tawny, Jeff Wright & Sampson
Despite the large number of competing teams, we were able to finish up the Last Chance Qualifier at about 6 pm, just in time to attend a reception at the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, one of the premier animal shelters in the United States. Disc doggers were treated to sweets and libations and the opportunity to see why our involvement with organizations like McKamey is so important. To our great delight, at least two McKamey canines found their way into disc dogging homes, and I feel certain that many more will follow because of our collective efforts to extol the virtues of shelter and rescue canines.
On Saturday, the action moved to AT&T Field, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts, where the large number of shoeless competitors offered a clue that the soft green grass was just too tempting to resist.
Competition in the Open Division was as spirited and as close as we have seen. All the teams came to play and brought their A-games to AT&T Field. When the dust settled, Tony Hoard & Rory stood at the top of the podium. At his sides, were the runner-up team of Mark Muir & Gipper (a half a point out of first) and the third place team of Lawrence Frederick & Easy Rider.
Saturday night, at the Gathering of Champions Awards Banquet, Hyperflite recognized all of the many volunteers who make the Worlds memorable for competitors including, but not limited to, chief judge Chuck Middleton, and judges Ed Jakubowski, Mark Jennings, and Hiro Sekiguchi (from Japan). Also recognized were Swanee Swainston, George Freeman, Mike and Kathy Miller, Lisa Middleton, Ray Lowman and the entire MADDOG Club, Nancy Noel, Gerell Evans, Dolores Willis, and countless others who pitched in along the way to get the job done.
Speaking of MADDOG, they won the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Club Cup once again.
To the great relief of the entire disc dog community, Mark Muir’s beloved golden noggin’ protector was returned after an extended stay in Farkle’s dog house, as well as a whirlwind tour of disc dog competitions in virtually every state in the U.S. It took a bit of trickery and subterfuge to make the reunion memorable and Mark, like a deer caught in the headlights, fell for the ruse, hook-line-and- sinker. Helping in the ploy were Dr. Amanda (and her husband Scott) from the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, and the ever devious Matt DiAno, who in the words of Richard Nixon “is not a crook.” The following day, Muir fastened the helmet to his Pop-up tent with a bicycle lock. This proved to be an adequate theft deterrent, though several disc doggers made attempts at helmet liberation and were repelled successfully by the Muir clan. Also at the banquet, Hyperflite introduced its newest product, the Jawz Hyperflex, an ultra- flexible version of the Jawz that is about 80% as tough as the regular Jawz disc but soft like Hypeflite’s SofFlite disc. All banquet attendees were given a new Jawz Hyperflex and they are now available through the Skyhoundz store. To our surprise, Troy Kerstetter and three-legged wonder dog Maty competed with the HyperFlex that they received the night before and managed to finish tied for seventh place, matching their effort at the 2006 World Championship. Way to go Maty!
On Sunday, three World Championship Divisions made for a long day. In the Sport Division, Kevin Eroskey & Brook out-pointed the competition to take the World Championship title with second going to Preston Dean & Tawny and third place to Jeff Stanaway & Colby. Only one point separated first and third place!
The MicroDogs may be small in stature, but they stood tall on the playing field and wowed the crowd with non-stop action. In the end, the dynamic duo of Al Erikson & George, won the gold. Finishing in second place were Tracy Custer & Frenzy. In third were, Gary Duke & Fergie.
As usual, the Pairs Freestyle teams were the crowd favorite. Shannon Bilheimer and Frank Buckland, an unstoppable force in the world of Pairs Freestyle, notched their fourth consecutive World Championship title to become the winningest team in the history of canine disc sports. Several teams had previously won three world titles — most notably, the legendary Alex Stein and Ashley Whippet — but no team until Sunday’s event, had ever won four World Championships. In second place, with an amazing performance that fell just short, were Danny Eggleston/Christina Curtis & Guinan. The third place team was decided by a first in Hyperflite history. After the team of Chandler Curtis/ Christina Curtis & Loco and the team of Frank Buckland/John Bilheimer & Filo finished both rounds in a tie for third place (which could not be broken by the first tiebreaker), spectators were treated to a rare “Snapshot” round in which teams are allotted 10 seconds to demonstrate their best trick cluster to settle the matter once and for all. A coin toss meant that John Bilheimer, Frank Buckland & Filo had to go first.
No stranger to pressure, Bilheimer was involved (several years earlier) in a Faceoff tiebreaker with Jeff Stanaway to conclude the Sport Division World Championship. However, on this day, Bilheimer and Buckland stumbled while Chandler Curtis/Christina Curtis & Loco wowed the judges with a perfect multi-throw sequence that left no doubt that they belonged on the podium. Incidentally, the Curtis’s became the first mother/son team to finish in the top three.
An interesting note: This is the first year in which there was a tie in at least one of the top three positions in each of the four Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Championship divisions. And, not surprisingly, “da two yutes” continued to impress with Preston Dean and Chandler Curtis each claiming podium real estate for the first time.
Our photographer, Sven Van Driessche, who captured many of the images in “Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide,” took 22,068 photographs over the three-day event, which means, there’s a strong likelihood that Sven took some great shots of your dog (and that he will almost certainly need to have his shutter finger replaced with a bionic unit before the 2009 Worlds!). Sven will be putting together a compilation of the best 250 photos from the weekend which we will post on our website. As usual, Hyperflite also arranged to have the action on Saturday and Sunday filmed by experienced videographer, Randy Scoggins. This year, the World Championship was filmed in the new “hi-definition” (HD) format, which means that the true beauty of disc doggers will be captured for the first time.
At the conclusion of competition, the “After Party” at the River Street Deli was just what the doctor ordered — plenty of beer, heavenly sandwiches and a chance to savor a delightful weekend of stellar performances courtesy of our friends with fur.
And, in case we forgot to say it to each one of you personally — our heartfelt thanks to you for your support. The Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Canine Disc Championship, when you get right down to it, has very little to do with us, and everything to do with you.
See you again next September…