This past week I essentially dedicated DFR to acknowledging the future of our sport – the junior handler – here and here. Today I’d like to take the time to recognize those juniors involved in the performance side of things.

It seems as though so many young handlers in the dog fancy today take a liking not only to the conformation ring, but to performance events as well. The role of juniors in performance events is something that has been growing over the past couple of years, I would say. How wonderful it is!

First off, I would like to share with you and congratulate the latest juniors who have put companion or performance titles on their dogs in July 2013:

  • • Kimberly Benkiser
  • • Lindsey Nicole Booth
  • • Erica K. Campbell
  • • Matelyn J. Cobban
  • • Linnea F. Corlette
  • • Hannah Diley
  • • Riley Anne Draus
  • • Kaitlyn E. Dreese
  • • Amanda Edstrom
  • • Sarah Elliott
  • • Peyton Gauthier
  • • Amelia Greninger
  • • Aleesha Grove
  • • Sarah Hebert
  • • Holly Hibdon
  • • Savannah Hinde
  • • Tequilla Howard
  • • Jacob Johnson
  • • Kayla Rose Kurtz
  • • Kimberly Lange
  • • Kayla Larsen
  • • Gabrielle Loesch
  • • Megan Maclntyre
  • • Sydney McGoverm
  • • Shea McGuinness
  • • Abigail Melton
  • • Julianna Munden
  • • Jordan Ortega
  • • Alicia Ramsaran
  • • Dainian Rochat
  • • Caitlin Sanderman
  • • Chylie J. Schramm
  • • Soren Smail
  • • Hannah Stein
  • • Hannah Thomas
  • • Alexander Van Meter
  • • Emily Walker
  • • Claire Wilcox
  • • Grace Yeadon

Wow! If you know any of the handlers listed above, please be sure to congratulate them next time you see them at an event. Some of these handlers even have multiple titles on multiple dogs.

The event for juniors involved in junior agility today is, no doubt, becoming a team member of the USA European Open Junior agility team. This past month the 2013 EOJ Agility World Championships took place in Switzerland where our very own Claire O’Neil and her Keeshond Ama joined with handlers from Spain to complete on a multi-national small-medium team.

Claire and team members from Spain pose for a photo at the EOJ 2013 competition in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of USA EOJ Team.

I had a chance to catch up with team coach Chris Ott, and here is what she had to say…

“Being the team coach for the USA EOJ team has been a great experience for me. To have the opportunity to be on the other side of the clipboard after many years as an international competitor myself has been a great learning experience. I look forward to coaching the 2014 team that will be heading to Italy.

“The opportunity to help mold today’s junior agility handlers into international competitors is a way for me to give back to the sport that gives so much to me. And working with the kids is always a thrill. These kids work very hard to get to where they are in this sport and even harder to get to this event. From training their own dogs to group course analysis sessions to fundraising for the team at their local events, being a USA team member is a commitment that these kids take very seriously.

“Each year’s team becomes a family. We train together via emails, phone calls, online chats, Skype and video. I get to know these kids and their families very well, and they get to know me. Our team manager, Frankie Joiris, and the parents that travel with us overseas are the backbone of our team, making sure all of the details for the trip are taken care of. We would never be able to do what we do without that support staff. On the days of the event, I think the parents work just as hard as the kids making sure everyone is accounted for and team members have what they need to do the best job possible. We are a family as well as a team.

“Each year our goal is to head to the event ready to take on everything that is presented to us, and the challenges are many. From the obvious issues of working our way around the language barriers to learning each country’s system of running events, every year is a learning experience. This was our second year attending the EOJ event, and each year we have improved. Next year we’re striving for a podium finish, and I believe we will have the team to do it.”

Team USA did a great job overall! For all of the results, please visit the event website here.

USA Individual Results:
8th Place Individual Medium Overall
4th Place Individual Medium Jumping
11th Place Individual Medium Agility

Span/USA Team Results:
20th Place Team Overall
15th Place Team Agility
24th Place Team Jumping

Claire and Ama Individual Results from Team Runs:
77th Place Team Jumpers
86th Place Team Agility

USA EOJ team member Claire O’Neil and her mother, team leader Karen O’Neil, pose for a picture at the event. Photo courtesy of USA EOJ Team.

Sadly, as you can see, only one junior from the USA was able to compete this year to represent the U.S. There were actually three juniors planning to compete, but they had to drop out because of the cost of the trip.

Coach Ott said, “These kids work very hard for this opportunity. Frankie and I donate all of our time and assistance as well as cover all of our expenses ourselves. It’s a great event and a wonderful way to give back to our favorite sport by supporting the future of agility.”

So on that note, if you are interested in becoming a member of the 2014 USA European Open Junior World Championships in Italy next year, it is highly recommended that you plan on attending this year’s AKC Junior Agility Invitational in Florida. Coach Ott and team manager Frankie Joiris will be there and are looking forward to meeting all of you and discussing the 2014 EOJ event, as well as getting the chance to watch you and your dogs compete.

Fundraising to help these handlers with the cost of the trip can be successful with the help of our community! Please go here for all the details.

Together we can make a difference for the future of our sport!

P.S. Dogs Freakin’ Rule!