Lambert repeats as Meeker Classic champion

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Beverly Lambert and her dog, Bill, became $15,000 richer Sunday after winning the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trial for the second year in a row.

Lambert was the only competitor to complete the finals within the allotted 30 minutes and scored 123 out of a possible 170 points.

"I am thrilled," she said.

Lambert resides in Hanover, Conn. She also came in fifth place this year with last year's winning dog, Pippa.

"The wind died down just a bit, and Bill was ready to work the sheep," she said. "My dogs did well here."

Julie Mathews, of Fort Collins took second place with her dog, Dodge, and Jack Knox of Butler, Mo., placed third. The top 10 places receive cash prizes.

During the sheepdog trials, handlers use a series of whistles and word commands to irect their dogs to perform specific maneuvers with a band of sheep. During the elimination phase, dogs must round up a group of five sheep and drive them about 600 yards through a gate.

They next must drive the sheep through gates on opposite sides of the field and back to the center circle, where they hold the sheep until the judge signals. Then they must separate two sheep from the flock and hold them again until the judge signals. Finally, they must drive the sheep into a gated pen. There are a possible 100 points.

In the finals competition, the dogs and handlers work with 20 sheep, which must be completed within 30 minutes. Dogs must gather one group of 10 and drive them through the first gate, about a quarter of a mile. They must return for the second set of 10 and drive them through the gate. Then dog and handler must drive all 20 through the right gate and across the field to the left gate. The dog must drive the herd to the center ring and wait until the judge signals.

The dog must then pick out five sheep with orange collars and separate them from the others while keeping the band of sheep in the center ring.

"This is not an easy feat," said Art Unsworth, announcer for the Meeker Classic. "Handlers work for years training dogs for competition," he said.

This is Unsworth's sixth year as an announcer, and he said he is amazed at how a town the size of Meeker can put such a big show together.

"This is such a class act. The people, the committee and it draws top notch handlers," he said. 4-day

Unsworth is a rancher in Maple Creek, a town in Saskatchewan, Canada. He also announces at rodeos and other agricultural events in Canada.

"If they will have me I plan to return," he said.

Handlers Jack and Kathy Knox treated the spectators to demonstrations Saturday and Sunday during the intermission. Knox has attended and or participated in 15 of the 18 Meeker Classics.

"This is truly a classic because the sheep here are like no other," Knox said. "These sheep really run the show and if your dog wins here, you've won something."

Other entertainment included Bagpiper Hugh Thackaberry from Fruita. A transplant from Scotland, Thackaberry spent Saturday and Sunday wondering the crowd and entertaining the spectators.

"You people need not been worried about the British coming back. It's the Scottish who's a taking over," he said.

Members of Colorado Disc Dogs also enlightened the audience on how many ways a dog can catch a Frisbee. Christy Goodwin, current state Frisbee champion, told the audience that Frisbees are a great way to work your sheepdog breeds when you don't have access to sheep.

"Border collies and other breeds need to work. Chasing a Frisbee can help them burn up some of the energy," she said.

There were 134 dogs entered in the trials. People traveled from 23 states and four Canadian provinces competed at the event. Nearly 20,000 people attended the five-day event.

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