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Little Morgan leaps into Big Air record book
By Steve Wright
Great Outdoor Games staff

  • Big Air final results

    A Big Air event will be open to the public at the Missoula Super Retreiver Series.
    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Less than a year ago, Mike Jackson and his black Labrador retriever Little Morgan were thinking only about hunting ducks, pheasants and grouse. The ESPN Great Outdoor Games Big Air competition wasn't a part of their game plan.

    That plan changed dramatically Saturday when Little Morgan blew away the field with a world record jump of 26 feet, 6 inches in a gold medal Big Air performance.

    Among the audience was New York Governor George Pataki, who hung the gold medal around Little Morgan's neck on the awards stand at Mirror Lake.

    "What's to not like about this," said Jackson, when asked if Little Morgan would continue to compete. "It's not hunting season, so I've got time. Now if this took place in October, November or December, it would be another story."

    Jackson lives in Shakopee, Minn. When Little Morgan won a jumping competition at an outdoor show near Minneapolis earlier this year, Jackson started thinking about the Great Outdoor Games Big Air competition. In a regional competition at the 2002 Indianapolis Boat Show, Little Morgan set a world indoor record of 23 feet, 1 inch.

    However, Little Morgan's only other competition wasn't so awesome — a 16th-place performance at the Super Retriever Series in Northfield, Minn.

    "Before that event, we had gone turkey hunting," Jackson said. "Well, I'd gone turkey hunting and left Little Morgan in the truck, where he ate about three or four days of dog food and a 12-inch submarine sandwich."

    Jackson said Little Morgan, who normally weighs 53 pounds, probably carried 59 pounds and a swollen belly in the jumping competition at Northfield.

    "I think some people thought he might have been a flash in the pan, but I knew better," Jackson said. "But I had no idea we'd blow away the field. I was just hoping for a medal."

    Melissa Holden of Clinton, Miss., and her dog Wally, another black Lab, took the silver medal, leaping from fourth place after the first round of the final to second with jump of 23 feet, 7 inches. Every jump but one in this event was a personal record for Wally, a four-year-old, 63-pound dog.

    "I'm very proud," said Holden. "The only jump that wasn't a personal record was when I got a little nervous."

    Kiki, a three-year-old black Lab, owned by Chris Litwin of Stamford, Conn., took the bronze medal with a leap of 22-5, only two inches behind Wally's silver medal jump.

    Dramatically highlighting Little Morgan's performance was the fact that the rest of the field was so tightly bunched.

    Ms. Ruger, owned by Robin Braaten of Duluth, Minn., qualified for the final and earned fourth place with a best of 22-7; Haly, owned by John Kline of Bloomington, Minn., was fifth with 22-2; Sosa, owned by Nick Flacco of Serenac Lake, N.Y., finished sixth with 21-3; Tucker, owned by Tom Dropik of Londale, Minn., placed seventh with 20-2; and Jerry, owned by Mike Wallace of Menands, N.Y., was eighth with 19-10.

    But Little Morgan was almost three feet ahead of the field. His first jump of the day and only attempt in the first round was 24-11 and set a new world mark. A 26-6 leap on his first attempt in the secord round established another world record. Little Morgan capped the final round with another world record matching 26-6 jump even though he'd already clinched the gold medal with a 24-7 mark on his first attempt in the finals.

    "It's just natural ability," said Jackson of his dog. "He was bred to hunt. We do very little training. He's just a smart dog with a lot of heart and a lot of ability."

    No one at Saturday's Big Air event could argue with any of that.

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    Event Description: Sporting Dogs Big Air