Dustin Hicks youngest competitor to win Sheep Dog title

By Marj Oleske

The stars were in perfect alignment for Dustin Hicks and his dog, Kat, at the Sheepdog Trials during the Black Hills Stock Show.

Kat is almost 11 years old, and is entering her retirement years. Dustin is a senior at Bennett County High School, and will be leaving home for college in the fall of 2013. Their partnership will soon be ending.

However, their strong bond of teamwork and ability to read each other won the Black Hills Sheep Dog Trial on January 31, in Rapid City. Dustin holds the honor of being the youngest competitor to win the event, at the age of 18.

“It’s a record that I expect will stand for a long time,” commented Dustin. “I did not expect it. I was lucky to get to the semi-finals. Kat is a very smart dog.”

Dustin and Kat have been competing together since she was three years old. Dustin, the son of Mike and Laura Hicks, picked her out when she was a puppy at their family’s ranch near Allen. Cleaning the kennels and helping take care of the dogs earned his claim to Kat.

The pair have placed at several different trials over the years, including the National Western Stock Show Intermediate Sheep Trial when they were first starting to work with each other.

The course at the Black Hills Competition included 65 dogs from multiple states and Canada. Everyone from beginners to professionals ran the course in one class, which is based on the fastest time in three rounds.

The fastest 20 runs make it to the semi-finals. From there it’s a cumulative time from the preliminaries and semi’s to place in the top ten to qualify for the finals. At that point, the slate is wiped clean and the fastest time wins the entire event.

Dustin was sixth in the preliminaries, fifth in the semi finals, and ultimately first in the finals. His time of 2:00 was ten seconds faster than his closest competitor, Barry Breemersch, of Manitoba, Canada, whose dog, Jack, clocked in at 2:10.

The course is a figure-8 between a barrel and the handler. The sheep must then be put through a Y-chute and into a pen. the handler can help at the cute and pen, in a limited fashion. The dog isn’t allowed to bite the sheep, and the handler cannot touch the sheep in any way.

Dustin’s first competition at the Black Hills Stock Show was in 2008, and he has returned each year since. In 2011, he and Kat advanced to the semi finals.

Dustin hopes to continue working with sheepdogs following college, where he plans to study diesel mechanics. Along with the winning belt buckle, Dustin won $1,400 in prize money. “That’s the most I’ve ever won, so far!”

Indeed, this year, their final year, they brought home the gold.

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