The 2022 National Championship could be described in clichés: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” (as NY Yankee catcher Yogi Berra said about baseball’s 1973 National League pennant race); “save the best to last.” And that’s what it came down to: deciding the winner of the 123rd running of the field trial came down to the last brace on the last afternoon. Lester’s Shockwave, aka “Bud,” handled by Gary Lester in that last brace is the 2022 National Champion.
The 2022 National Championship originally drew 25 contenders for the title, but before the field trial got underway, two dogs had to be withdrawn because of health conditions: Touch’s Blackout and Whippoorwill Forever Wild. That left 23 dogs, all drawn on Saturday February 12 to run in the 12 braces of the week. Weather permitting, this year’s championship would be completed in one week, starting February 14, 2022.
But having lost a full day’s braces on Thursday, February 17 to rain and thundershowers, the field trial, which was supposed to conclude on Saturday February 19, concluded on Sunday afternoon February 20. Since more rain and thundershowers were predicted to come through the area on Monday and Tuesday, possibly Wednesday and Thursday of the next week, it was prudent to run the final two braces on Sunday. This was the first time ever braces were run on Sunday in the National Championship, and Dr. Carlisle emphasized that this is not setting a precedent.
All week this year’s National Championship had seen a dearth of bird finds. People may have wondered if the ice storm that preceded the National may have had an effect on the birds. Dr. Carlisle said that the ice storm did take down some cover. However, he said that Quail populations operate in cycles. Last year there was a lower number of bird contacts, as there was this year. But he expects that next year the numbers will be up again. He also said that before a front comes through, birds will go out to feed to sate themselves and sustain them over a period of bad weather. He noted that “Bud” hunted in places where other dogs hadn’t gone. “Of the six finds, four were new, in places where nobody had seen birds previously in the week,” Carlisle said. So it could have been a combination of birds out feeding for 2-3 hours in the afternoon and “Bud” looking in new places for birds that resulted in more finds than any other dog had this year.
Until “Bud” had six bird contacts in the last brace, the most any other dog had was three.
The two females running in brace 3 were the first dogs to complete the three hours, but they each had only one find.
In brace 5, Lester’s Storm Surge and Touch’s Malcolm Story both finished the three hours, but Storm Surge only had an unproductive, a divided find, and a back. Story had an unproductive, a stop to flush, a divided find, was twice found standing but birds not seen (a rabbit was seen on the second one); and one final find at 2:44.
Miller’s Speed Dial (brace 6) was the next dog to complete the three hours, but only had two finds and an unproductive. In the following braces of the week, no other dog finished the three hours and several had “no bird work.” So it all came down to the last brace on Sunday afternoon with Lester’s Shockwave taking the course solo with handler Gary Lester.
William Smith – Official Reporter of the 2022 National Championship, described the brace:
“Sometimes the last is the best. That was the case when Lester’s Shock Wave ran as a bye dog in the last brace of the 2022 National. Birds had been scarce and it was a do or die scenario for Lester and Shockwave. Shockwave made it known early in the heat that he meant business when he recorded his first find at 0:23 in the Mounting Block field. He went on to record four more flawless finds and a stop-to-flush on a relocation. He was subservient to Lester the entire three hours and he hunted the likely places, going on his own to investigate. His speed remained constant during his bid. He stood stately on each of his finds and no exception was taken to his manners at any time. His last find was at 2:50 in Morgan Swamp. He finished in the morning Breakaway field (near the field trial stables) still running strong. The announcement at the Manor House made it official. Lester’s Shockwave is the 2022 National Champion.”
So Gary Lester got to stand in his favorite place to be this time of year: on the green steps of the Ames Manor House. Unfortunately the owners Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton were not at Ames to see their dog’s performance or the share in the glory of his win.
The mood on the steps was a combination of solemnity and jocularity. Lester and Dr. Carlisle exchanged some joking banter about who had to wait on whom for the ceremony to begin. [When Lester won in 2020 with Miller’s Speed Dial, folks had to wait about half an hour or more for Lester to get to the Manor House. He had been eating at a restaurant in Grand Junction when the announcement was made.]
“Oh, boy, is this fine!” Lester began his remarks on the steps. Lester first wanted to thank God Almighty for his blessings, and said a prayer of thanks: “Lord, you’ve been so good to me. We thank you the way you’ve blessed us: for all the friends that you have shown us through the dogs and horses; for all the opportunities to serve you. …Beautiful day, Lord, and we just want to thank you again. Amen. Now, most of you all know that this is my favorite spot to be in February.”
Lester had praise for his scout Korry Rinehart, as well as scout Nick Thompson who has helped him a lot. “This ain’t no one man show, I’ll tell you.” And he continued to thank all of those who helped make this moment possible, beginning with his wife Joy. He praised “great owners” Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton. [The Hamiltons own both Lester’s Shock Wave and Lester’s Storm Surge, who are brothers.] He had thanks for all “The Company” – starting with those who whelp the puppies and then socialize them. “Then they go up to Mr. Ferrell and Scott Mason,” who run them until they are ready to go down to south Georgia and north Florida for more work. “A lot of these kennels down there are full of white dogs,” he proudly said. Then a few dogs are chosen to go to work in South Dakota for more training. And when finished there, they become Lester’s responsibility. “I’ve had so much fun with them!” he said. He was grateful to all the folks who have “been good to me.” He reiterated that “this just doesn’t happen with one man. It takes a lot of people.
“Oh, I do like it up here on this porch!” he digressed. Lester addressed Carlisle, “I got here before you did today, and I even took a shower.” Carlisle retorted that he was waiting on Lester.
“It’s just once every few years when I get up here and all the pretty women want to hug me,” Lester continued. “I got me a shower; so you all come on and hug me now.”
Lester concluded by thanking all the judges and the officials of this year’s running. He invited his wife to the green steps, saying, “They don’t make them any better.” And thus the picture taking began.