Sarah Baker and her three-year-old border collie Hops dominated the 20″ height class at the American Kennel Club National Agility Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, capturing their second straight championship win. As the defending champion, they cruised through the three preliminary rounds en route to the top seed in the finals. Once there, Sarah and Hops dazzled the audience with a brilliant 33.31 second run—the fastest time of all heights in the finals and over 2 seconds ahead of second place.
In a recent podcast interview, Sarah noted that she was most proud of “how Hops performed…he kept all his start lines, stayed on all his teeters, got his contacts, he was amazing.” She also explained that “my mental management this time around was a huge improvement over last year. I had control of my nerves, and I stayed focused, and I was very proud of that, for myself.”
Sarah also ran her labrador retriever Rice in the 20″ Preferred class at the event, where he was the defending national champion. Unfortunately, Rice dropped the double in the challenger round, and did not advance to the finals.
Sarah’s success has captured the attention of backers—she is now a sponsored athlete for both Bad Dog Agility and Elite Science Vet. Sarah’s skillful handling and Hops’ running contacts have combined to create a young team on the rise in the agility world. In December, they earned an automatic spot on Team USA for this summer’s European Open in France.
Next up for Sarah and Hops? The Agility Américas and Caribe event in Colombia, a tune-up for the Team USA tryouts in May. The world team tryout will be held May 7-9 in San Jose, California, where Sarah and Hops will compete for one of the four coveted spots on the large dog team that the AKC will send to Spain to compete at the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) Agility World Championship.
You can follow Sarah and her dogs at sarahbakeragility.com or on Facebook.