Milliken wins Classic, again

Amanda Milliken of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and her dog Clive won the silver anniversary 2011 Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship trials last weekend. She didn’t have much time to celebrate, however. Milliken and Clive qualified to compete in the 2011 U.S. National Finals, which started Tuesday in Carbondale.
Amanda Milliken of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and her dog Clive won the silver anniversary 2011 Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship trials last weekend. She didn’t have much time to celebrate, however. Milliken and Clive qualified to compete in the 2011 U.S. National Finals, which started Tuesday in Carbondale.

MEEKER I The vision from the beginning was to become the best sheepdog trials event in the world. Twenty-five years later one can argue which one is “best,” but whenever sheepdog trials are discussed the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials are always in the conversation.“Meeker is the most prestigious trial in North America to win, outside of the U.S. National Finals,” said Amanda Milliken, watching the final handler and dog team for the day complete the course. “It’s hard to win, there are a lot of great runners and great dogs and it’s never over until the trial is over. They’ve made it into something special to win.”The first sheepdog trials held in Meeker, in 1987, was called the World Sheepdog Championships. It offered a $15,000 purse to “make a splash and draw attention,” according to Keith Chamberlain, author of “Something Useful and Unspoiled,” a 25-year history of the Meeker Classic. The World Sheepdog Championships featured 63 handlers and was won by Canadian Elvin Kopp and his dog Jeff.Twenty-five years later, the purse was increased to $25,000 in honor of the silver anniversary of the event. The number of entries increased to 135, and this event, too, was won by a Canadian.Milliken, of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and her 7-year-old dog Clive, were the third of 15 teams to run in the finals. They scored 134 of a possible 170 points Sunday to win the $6,500 first prize check. Milliken also won the Meeker Classic in 2009, with her dog Ethel.“Clive is a nephew of Ethel,” said Milliken, who also handles Roz. “Roz is a daughter of Ethel but ran in a thunderstorm and she is afraid of thunder, so she didn’t do well.”Although there were past Meeker Classic champion handlers in the field of 135, only Milliken and Dennis Gillings advanced through the preliminary and semifinal rounds to finals.Dennis Edwards and his dog Craig of Sundance, Wyo., finished second. Dennis Gellings and his dog Jan of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada were third. Gellings won the Meeker Classic in 2008 with his dog Jake.Milliken didn’t have much time to enjoy her victory. She qualified for the U.S. National Finals, which started Tuesday in Carbondale, Colo.“Some say there is kind of a curse, you can’t win Meeker and the National Finals,” Milliken said of the upcoming challenge. “I hope to prove that wrong this year.” Milliken won the U.S. National Finals in 2005, when they were held in Sturgis, S.D.Last year Mary “Maym” Cunningham replaced her younger sister Ellen Nieslanik as director of the Meeker Classic and was pleased with the results.“Several handlers have said this is the best trial to come to, the best one in the world and that is a tribute to the community that started this,” Cunningham said after the awards ceremony. “I’m thankful for everybody showing up and doing their job. The board and volunteers put in a lot of hours to pull it all together and it worked. All the events went well and our educational seminars were well received.”