Rec center goes to dogs for tournament

Deb Cleworth
Daily Tribune Media
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Walking down the steps from the balcony at the South Wood County Recreational Center, a roar emits from the rink area.

And while vehicles fill the parking lot, there is no sound of players hitting the boards. The learn-to-skate assists are lined up on a landing, and the spectator bleachers are folded against the wall.

The sound coming from the rink is that of dogs — dogs of all sizes — participating in the second annual Flyball Frenzy Tournament.

“We weren’t sure how many years we were going to do this, but I think we’re going to do this for a long time to come,” said Lori Whitney, a member of the Rapids Intens-A-Flyrs and Wisconsin Rapids Kennel Club.

The facility — which will be icing up again next month for hockey — is a great place to hold the tournament, Whitney said.

“(Rink manager) Jim Arnold has been great; this is just a super place to have a tournament and everybody loves it,” Whitney said.

A total of 16 teams participated from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. While there was no charge for spectators, the impact of the event could be felt throughout the community. Many teams camped at South Wood County Park or stayed at local hotels and ate at nearby restaurants.

“The motels have been wonderful welcoming the dogs, which is a big thing, because a lot of people come with more than one dog,” she said. “We have had no issue getting motels to accommodate our visitors; the town has been wonderful helping us with this tournament.”

Alicia Kraucunas of Mukwonago and her border collie, Jack, are members of the High Fives Flyball team. She came to last year’s inaugural event and agreed Wisconsin Rapids does a great job of hosting the tournament.

“We love this tournament,” she said. “It’s just a great avenue for us racing.”

“The dogs love it,” she said, as Jack barked in agreement.

In an atmosphere of all that barking and excitement, it’s difficult to believe the event could be emotional, but that’s just what it is for Wisconsin Rapids Kennel Club member Ilene Havitz, a volunteer judge for the competition.

“When I stop crying, I’m fine,” Havitz said. “(The dogs) are trying so hard. They’re putting so much effort into it and they’re so sincere.”

Havitz said she would love to compete and tried training her Shetland sheepdog, Chelsea, 5.

“She’s only got one speed,” Havitz said with a smile. “That’s prissy. It has to be dignity at all times with her.”

Deb Cleworth can be reached at or 715-423-7200, ext. 6730. Follow her on Twitter @DebCleworth

What is Flyball?

Flyball races match two teams of four dogs each, racing side by side over a 51-foot long course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the jumps, trigger a Flyball box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all four jumps and reached the start/finish line. The first team to have all four dogs finish the course without error wins the heat.


Find out more

• Contact Lori Whitney at to learn more about the Rapids Intens-A-Flyrs.

• The Wisconsin Rapids Kennel Club is at 150 Market St., Port Edwards, has about 65 members and is open to anyone with any breed of dog. The club meets at 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month and welcomes new members. Call 715-887-3007 for more information.

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