As a reading mentor for Communities In Schools of Peninsula at Evergreen Elementary, it was my pleasure to be introduced to MaryAnna Swainston, my 8-year-old reading companion. I learned that she is a champion in canine flying disc competitions.
Shortly thereafter, Carla Swainston emailed to tell me about her granddaughter, MaryAnna, who was competing a workshop at Cirque Park in University Place. Sadly, I was unable to attend.
Later, I joined MaryAnna, aka “Dutch,” who has been doing canine flying disc for about two years, and her grandfather, Nyle “Swanee” Swainston, and two disc dogs at the Key Peninsula Civic Center grounds for an exciting session in which the young lady demonstrated her well-honed skills.
“I started playing disc with my dogs when I was 6,” MaryAnna said. “My dad and grandpa were doing it, and it looked like fun, so I started. At first, I just threw for distance — and couldn’t throw very far. But I got better. Now I’m working on a routine where the dog and I do tricks.”
Swanee said the Skyhoundz Northwest Regional championship will be held at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Cirque Park, 7250 Cirque Drive W. in University Place. There is no charge for spectators.
If MaryAnna places first or second in her youth division, she will earn an invitation to the Skyhoundz World Championship, which will be held Sept. 28 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The two events at Northwest Regionals are distance and accuracy, a fast-paced event in which teams attempt to score points by completing as many catches as possible within various scoring zones in the time allotted; and freestyle distance/accuracy, a free-form, choreographed routine scored by judges using the Skyhoundz PAWS judging system with an emphasis on success, variety, innovation, and the athletic skills of the canine and thrower.
In PAWS freestyle scoring, teams get scores for presentation: a crowd-pleasing routine with exciting choreography, continuous flow, good disc management and smooth transitions; athleticism: intensity and athleticism in completing catches, tricks or maneuvers together with a dog’s speed, quickness, leaping ability relative to its size and control over his/her body while competing; wow factor: ability to complete challenging tricks or moves, including successful catches of throws with varied spins or releases, and the presentation of completely new moves or a novel or unique presentation of a previously performed move; and success: the team’s ability to execute a routine with specific consideration given for difficulty of throws or catches and tricks.
A team’s overall score affects, positively or negatively, scores in all PAWS categories. It is possible for a team with a few misses to score higher than a team with no misses if the team that has the misses completes a more difficult routine.
Dogs naturally love to run, chase and grab things with their mouths. For canines, no activity is more healthy or satisfying than chasing or catching a flying disc. And almost any dog can participate in backyards or at a nearby park.
Pet owners worldwide are discovering that 10 minutes of canine disc play is more fun and better exercise.
“I spend a lot more time with the dogs, border collies, 4-year-old Buzz and 8-year-old Gus, and my grandpa, because we have to practice,” MaryAnna said. “Sometimes when I compete, it is with adults, and sometimes I beat them!
“I am trying to throw farther in distance,” she said. “The next competition is the regionals, and if I win, I get to go to the world finals.”
MaryAnna’s accomplishments include: Skyhoundz NorthWest Youth Champion in 2011; Flamingo Classic Youth Champion in 2012 and 2013; and Pacific Coast Disc Dog Intermediate Champion earlier this year.
And this remarkable 8-year-old champion is a student at Evergreen Elementary in our Peninsula School District. You gotta feel proud!
For more information, email email@example.com.Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.