Each year, we strive to make the Hyperflite Skyhoundz World CanineDisc Championship better than the year before. We faced someadditional challenges this year with a weakening economy, twohurricanes, high gas prices, gas shortages, and a new host city. Butdespite these hurdles, our wonderful community came together just aswe 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 muchlike a family reunion as it does a sporting event for the world’s bestdisc dog teams. This year, our “family” included teams from Belgium,Canada, Hungary, Japan, and from all points of the compass here in theU.S. In a show of true dedication to the sport, a competitor fromJapan — Rieko Ara — went so far as to quit her full-time job when shecouldn’t get the time off from work to attend the World Championship!
Those who came early to Chattanooga, Tennessee, learned why weselected Chattanooga as the venue for the 2008 Worlds. Disc doggerstook their canines to “See Rock City,” and a plethora of other dog-friendly spots. Quite a few of you took riverboat cruises along theTennessee River, visited the aquarium, watched an IMAX movie, ate atthe fabulous eateries, or enjoyed other Chattanooga attractions.Everyone I spoke with seemed to feel that Chattanooga’s motto, “TheScenic City” was an understatement. Judging by the positive commentsmade 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 wearrived in Chattanooga on Tuesday to begin pre-event media. The WorldChampionship was heavily promoted and enthusiastically supported bythe Chattanooga media and disc doggers were treated to an avalanche ofnewspaper, radio and television coverage.
On Thursday evening, Hyperflite co-hosted a welcome reception with theSouth Paws Dog and Disc Club (https://skyhoundz.com//phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=24), a new club with a multi-state membership and a multi-organizermentality. We thank South Paws for their support and wish them well intheir new endeavor.
On Friday, at the North River Soccer Complex, a whopping 240 teamscompeted in the Last Chance Open Qualifier for the final 14invitations to the World Championship. Qualifying at the “Last ChanceOpen 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/RickRauwerda & 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 upthe Last Chance Qualifier at about 6 pm, just in time to attend areception at the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, one of thepremier animal shelters in the United States. Disc doggers weretreated to sweets and libations and the opportunity to see why ourinvolvement with organizations like McKamey is so important. To ourgreat delight, at least two McKamey canines found their way into discdogging homes, and I feel certain that many more will follow becauseof our collective efforts to extol the virtues of shelter and rescuecanines.
On Saturday, the action moved to AT&T Field, home of the ChattanoogaLookouts, where the large number of shoeless competitors offered aclue that the soft green grass was just too tempting to resist.
Competition in the Open Division was as spirited and as close as wehave seen. All the teams came to play and brought their A-games toAT&T Field. When the dust settled, Tony Hoard & Rory stood at the topof 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 ofLawrence Frederick & Easy Rider.
Saturday night, at the Gathering of Champions Awards Banquet,Hyperflite recognized all of the many volunteers who make the Worldsmemorable for competitors including, but not limited to, chief judgeChuck Middleton, and judges Ed Jakubowski, Mark Jennings, and HiroSekiguchi (from Japan). Also recognized were Swanee Swainston, GeorgeFreeman, Mike and Kathy Miller, Lisa Middleton, Ray Lowman and theentire MADDOG Club, Nancy Noel, Gerell Evans, Dolores Willis, andcountless others who pitched in along the way to get the job done.
Speaking of MADDOG, they won the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Club Cup onceagain.
To the great relief of the entire disc dog community, Mark Muir’sbeloved golden noggin’ protector was returned after an extended stayin Farkle’s dog house, as well as a whirlwind tour of disc dogcompetitions in virtually every state in the U.S. It took a bit oftrickery and subterfuge to make the reunion memorable and Mark, like adeer 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 deviousMatt DiAno, who in the words of Richard Nixon “is not a crook.” Thefollowing day, Muir fastened the helmet to his Pop-up tent with abicycle lock. This proved to be an adequate theft deterrent, thoughseveral disc doggers made attempts at helmet liberation and wererepelled 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 regularJawz disc but soft like Hypeflite’s SofFlite disc. All banquetattendees were given a new Jawz Hyperflex and they are now availablethrough the Skyhoundz store. To our surprise, Troy Kerstetter andthree-legged wonder dog Maty competed with the HyperFlex that theyreceived the night before and managed to finish tied for seventhplace, matching their effort at the 2006 World Championship. Way to goMaty!
On Sunday, three World Championship Divisions made for a long day. Inthe Sport Division, Kevin Eroskey & Brook out-pointed the competitionto take the World Championship title with second going to Preston Dean& Tawny and third place to Jeff Stanaway & Colby. Only one pointseparated first and third place!
The MicroDogs may be small in stature, but they stood tall on theplaying field and wowed the crowd with non-stop action. In the end,the dynamic duo of Al Erikson & George, won the gold. Finishing insecond place were Tracy Custer & Frenzy. In third were, Gary Duke &Fergie.
As usual, the Pairs Freestyle teams were the crowd favorite. ShannonBilheimer and Frank Buckland, an unstoppable force in the world ofPairs Freestyle, notched their fourth consecutive World Championshiptitle to become the winningest team in the history of canine discsports. Several teams had previously won three world titles — mostnotably, the legendary Alex Stein and Ashley Whippet — but no teamuntil Sunday’s event, had ever won four World Championships. In secondplace, with an amazing performance that fell just short, were DannyEggleston/Christina Curtis & Guinan. The third place team was decidedby 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 notbe broken by the first tiebreaker), spectators were treated to a rare“Snapshot” round in which teams are allotted 10 seconds to demonstratetheir best trick cluster to settle the matter once and for all. A cointoss meant that John Bilheimer, Frank Buckland & Filo had to go first.No stranger to pressure, Bilheimer was involved (several yearsearlier) in a Faceoff tiebreaker with Jeff Stanaway to conclude theSport Division World Championship. However, on this day, Bilheimer andBuckland stumbled while Chandler Curtis/Christina Curtis & Loco wowedthe judges with a perfect multi-throw sequence that left no doubt thatthey belonged on the podium. Incidentally, the Curtis’s became thefirst mother/son team to finish in the top three.
An interesting note: This is the first year in which there was a tiein at least one of the top three positions in each of the fourHyperflite Skyhoundz World Championship divisions. And, notsurprisingly, “da two yutes” continued to impress with Preston Deanand Chandler Curtis each claiming podium real estate for the first time.
Our photographer, Sven Van Driessche, who captured many of the imagesin “Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide,” took 22,068 photographs over thethree-day event, which means, there’s a strong likelihood that Sventook some great shots of your dog (and that he will almost certainlyneed to have his shutter finger replaced with a bionic unit before the2009 Worlds!). Sven will be putting together a compilation of the best250 photos from the weekend which we will post on our website. Asusual, Hyperflite also arranged to have the action on Saturday andSunday 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 becaptured for the first time.
At the conclusion of competition, the “After Party” at the RiverStreet Deli was just what the doctor ordered — plenty of beer,heavenly sandwiches and a chance to savor a delightful weekend ofstellar performances courtesy of our friends with fur.
And, in case we forgot to say it to each one of you personally — ourheartfelt thanks to you for your support. The Hyperflite SkyhoundzWorld Canine Disc Championship, when you get right down to it, hasvery little to do with us, and everything to do with you.
See you again next September…