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Upset special: Skeeter stuns Little Morgan for Big Air gold

By Guy Clifton
Great Outdoor Games staff

RENO, Nev. — In an upset comparable to Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson and Villanova over Georgetown, the 2003 ESPN Great Outdoor Games checked in Sunday with Skeeter over Little Morgan.

Skeeter, a 3-year-old female black Labrador, claimed the gold medal in the Big Air competition at Rancho San Rafael Park with a jump of 23 feet, 3 inches. Little Morgan, the defending gold medalist and world record holder, managed a jump of 22-4 in the finals to take the silver medal.

Skeeter takes flight during the Big Air event of the ESPN Great Outdoor Games as handler, Terry Casey of Parker, Texas yells encouragement. Skeeterupset 2002 gold medalist Little Morgan with a jump of 23 feet, 3 inches in the final round.
"Somebody needs to pinch me and make sure I'm not dreaming," said Skeeter's handler, Terry Casey, of the Dallas suburb of Parker, Texas. "This has always been a dream."

Casey and his wife, Julie, recognized Skeeter as a strong jumper at an early age.

"At 10-months-old she jumped 18 feet, 10 inches and we hadn't done any training, absolutely nothing. We just sent her off a dock," Casey said. "So after putting a little work into it, and getting some pointers from (fellow competitor) Tom Dropik, she started increasing her jumps six to eight inches every time we went out and she's kept that up." Skeeter's jumps of 23-4 in the second round and 23-3 in the finals, were the two longest in her career. "Her best jump ever was 23-2 coming into the Games, so to have two jumps over that is just amazing," Casey said.

Through the first two rounds of the three-round competition, it looked as if Little Morgan and her handler, Mike Jackson of Shakopee, Minn., would cruise to an easy victory once again. After opening with a 22-7 on his first jump in the first round, Little Morgan, a 4-year-old black Labrador male, soared 25-9, just nine inches short of his world record. In the semifinals, Little Morgan jumped 24-10 on his only jump of the round to go into the finals as the top seed.

Each round starts with all the dogs even, however, and Little Morgan managed a leap of only 19-10 on his first jump and couldn't overtake Skeeter on his final jump.

"I don't know what happened," Jackson said. "When you're standing on the dock, you can't tell. I don't know if I made a bad throw of if he left too early."

Jackson said this isn't the first time Little Morgan has needed a big jump to win a title.

"He's done that before and he's always pulled it off," he said. "It just didn't work out this time."

Jackson said Skeeter deserved credit for the victory.

"I said Skeeter has a good build for this kind of competition, the best build of any of the dogs here," he said. "She's a good champion."

Other competitors said seeing Little Morgan finally drop a big match may give them a lift.

"It's good for the sport," said former Major League pitcher Milt Wilcox, who competed with his dog, Sparky. "It lets everyone know you can bring your dog in here and have a chance."

The bronze medal went to Dwight, a 2-year-old male black Labrador, who had a jump of 21-10 in the finals. He is handled by Wade Coplin of Stevensville, Mont.

Final Standings — Big Air

1. Skeeter/Terry Casey, Parker, Texas, 23 feet, 3 inches
2. Little Morgan/Mike Jackson, Shakopee, Minn., 22'4"
3. Dwight/Wade Coplin, Stevensville, Mont., 21'10"
4. Haley/John Kline, Bloomington, Minn., 19'7"

The following dogs did not qualify for the final round:

5. Kiki/Chris Litwin, Stamford, Conn., 22'1"
6. Xena/Zane Ward, Prior Lake, Minn., 21'3"
7. Sparky/Milt Wilcox, Huntington Woods, Mich., 20'1"
8. Tucker/Tom Dropik, Lonsdale, Minn., 18'4"

The following dogs did not qualify for the second round:

9. Wally/Melissa Holden, Clinton, Miss., 20'5"
10. Daisy June/Will Gutman, Missoula, Mont., 20'3"
11. Jack/Roddy Reynolds, Rising Fawn, Ga., 20'
12. Raider/Brent Ohlson, Lewellen, Neb., 19'10"