This past weekend, in conjunction with the Kentuckiana Cluster in Louisville, Ky., juniors residing in nearly two dozen U.S. states, who had two Open wins (with competition) between January 31, 2012 and January 31, 2013, were eligible to compete in the Midwest Regional Top Junior handler Competition.

Juniors from Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin gathered at the Kentucky Exposition Center for the event.

On the day of the regional, judging was split into three different parts. Two preliminary groups were to be judged by two different judges, Ms. Karan Aurelius and Ms. Jan Swayze-Curry. Eight finalists were chosen from a total of 42 entries, and these were judged later in the day in the Group ring where everyone could cheer on the future of our sport.

Emily and her Beagle ‘Winston’ celebrating after their big win.

Ms. Swayze-Curry continued on to judge the finals and chose Miss Emily Goldstein of North Carolina as her winner! I had a chance to catch up with Emily herself and this is what she had to say about the win:

“I am incredibly thrilled and honored. I have been working really hard with my Beagle, Winston, and it’s a wonderful feeling when your hard work pays off. I am also starting to apply to colleges, and the scholarship will be a great help. It’s fantastic that the Louisville Kennel Club is willing to show so much support for juniors, especially in terms of furthering our education. I am very grateful to them!”

A trio of junior handlers enjoys their time at the regional competition. From left to right are Kristin Lawless, Chase Koetter and Emma Grayson Echols.

This great event can only get better by rewarding talented juniors with scholarships toward their education, and that’s exactly what the cluster did. The Best Kentuckiana Cluster Junior Handler was rewarded with $1,000, and each Award of Merit Junior Handler was awarded a scholarship in the amount of $250.

Ms. Swayze-Curry’s three Award of Merit winners were, in this order, Emma Grayson Echols of Georgia, Kristin Lawless of Kentucky and Devon Kipp of Wisconsin.

Oh, and did I mention that the day before, the AKC and the AKC Registered Handlers invited all children and junior handlers to a FREE handling clinic? How cool is that? The professional handlers worked with the kids to teach them how to best present their dogs in the conformation ring, and even shared some of their “secrets” of dog presentation.

Regional competitions, free clinics and scholarships prove that Dog (Shows) Freakin’ Rule!