A Look at 2015 Finals & Proposed 10/Day Change

To: Carol Clawson, District Representatives, and General Membership of USBCHA

From: Linda Whedbee & Lisbeth Vincent

Date: December, 2015

Re:  Brief Statitistical Analysis of 2015 National Finals–Preliminary to Semi-Final Results Plus Scenario Depiction using Proposed Ten-Day System


We have completed our analysis of the data from the 2015 National Finals. We have reviewed the USBCHA rules pertaining to advancement into the semi-final round and have found no specific stipulation as to how advancement is determined. However, in the 12 years I have been involved in the USBCHA, standard practice appears to be that the top 40 dogs from the preliminary runs are advanced into the semi-final round. (Those of you who have been around longer can attest to the validity of this statement.) In the past several years, there has been some speculation as to whether it would be “fairer” to change this system to one whereby ten top handler/dog teams from each day of the four preliminary runs be advanced to the semi-final round.  We have looked at data from the 2011 and 2014 USBCHA National Sheepdog Finals. There would be differences between a system which advances 40 overall teams to the semi-final round versus a system which advances the top ten teams from each day. In order to continue the study of this issue we examined the 2015 Finals. What follows is a compilation of the 2015 data, using the same methodology as was used in 2011 and 2014. In addition, we have projected—as was done in 2011 and 2014–what might have been the results had a ten team per day, for a total of 40 teams, been advanced into the semi-final round. Please keep in mind that this is not a statistically controlled study.  We are simply tabulating the results, computing percentages, visually examining them. We have put these together in hopes that other handlers will find them interesting.

What We Found

In 2015, because of ties, 42 teams went forward into the semi-final round (versus the prescribed 40). (See table 1 below) We found that the following number of teams moved forward on Monday: 9 teams; Tuesday: 13 teams; Wednesday: 9 teams; Thursday: 11 teams. Because we wanted to determine whether one day had—for whatever reason—been more difficult to the overall field of competitors, we also looked at the number of teams that retired or were DQ’d each day. During the four days of the preliminary round there were a total of thirteen RT’s and twenty-six DQ’s.  On Monday there were two RT’s and four DQ’s for a total of six teams that were unsuccessful in completing the course; on Tuesday, four RT’s and five DQ’s for a total of nine eliminations; on Wednesday, two teams retired and nine were disqualified for a total of eleven eliminations; and, on Thursday, six teams retired and seven were DQ’d, for a total of thirteen. (Please refer to table 1 below

TABLE 1: Number and Percentage of Teams Advancing to Semi-Finals Plus Number of Retired and Disqualified Each Day

Day # of Teams Advancing to Semi-Final Round # of Teams Retired or DQ’d
Monday 9 (21%) 6 RT + 4 DQ=10(27%)
Tuesday 13 (31%) 4 RT + 5 DQ=9(24%)
Wednesday 9 (21%) 2 RT + 9 DQ=11(29%
Thursday 11(26%) 5 RT + 6 DQ= 11(29%)


With the assistance of volunteer observers at the field during the competition, we were able to include weather, wind, outrun direction, and general setout and sheep behavior to our list of conditions.  In 2015, the weather was consistently sunny, moderate temperatures, and with little or no wind.  The setout and sheep were judged by the observers to be as uniform as can ever be expected.  And, handlers seemed to agree that sending left was the most wise and expedient way to send their dog.

Analyzing the data on who moved forward, as well as the teams who were DQ’d or RT’d, we concluded that no day was easier or more difficult than any other. If, over a number of years, we find that “second days” have more qualifiers than the other three days (as was seen in 2015), then we might be compelled to explore further. But, given the data of the past few years, there appears not to be any significant difference.

Because there has been discussion of the time of day having an impact on difficulty, we chose to break each day into quarters and analyze how many teams qualified, RT’d, or DQ’d  each day. Please refer to table 2 below.

We also looked at which handlers would have qualified for the semi-finals if the ten highest scores per day had been selected—instead of the current 40 overall.  For 2015, this would have meant that on Monday one additional team would have advanced to semi-final round: Mindy Bower and Possum with a score of 114. On Tuesday, three teams would have been eliminated and those teams would have been: Allen Mills and Sis (121), Vicki Close and Jesse(119), and Carol Nelson with Kale (118). On Wednesday, the team of Tom Wilson and Meg (114) would have advanced. And, on Thursday, the team of Mindy Bower and Griz(126) would have been out of the running.(Please refer to table 2 below.)

The following is a look at the top placings from the preliminary runs each day. 

These charts reflect two things:

  • What actually happened, and,
  • What might have happened (with the proposed 10/day in place).

 Please note: teams in green would have been additional teams ADVANCING using the 10/day qualifying system.  Red indicates handlers who would have been ELIMINATED from moving forward using the 10/day qualifying system.

 Table 2: Overall look at 2015 Finals Qualifiers Plus Scores By Day and Time of Day

Monday (9 qualifiers—RT:2,DQ:2)

Placing for Day Handler/Dog Team Preliminary Score AM1/AM2         PM1/PM2*
1 Bev Lambert/Joe 162 AM1
2 Bill Berhow/Cley 131 PM1
3 Elizabeth Baker/Ross 128 PM1
4 Libby Nieder/Darby 128 AM2
5 Mich Ferraro/Mawde 123 PM1
6 Elissa Thau/Tom 122 AM2
7 Ellen Skillings/Jill 119 PM2
8 Wendy Schmalt/Ky 116 AM2
9 Sandi Andersen/Best 115 PM2
10 (IN) Mindy Bower/Possum 114 PM2

 Tuesday (13 qualifiers—RT:4,DQ:5)

Placing for Day Handler/Dog Team Preliminary Score AM1/AM2         PM1/PM2
1 Suzy Applegate/Dot 149 AM2
2 Amy Coapman/Roy 138 PM2
3 Derek Fisher/Goodwin Nell 135 PM2
4 Roy Taber/Craig 133 AM2
5 Ian Caldcott/Maxie 130 AM2
6 Fred Temple/Ettrick Jack 129 AM2
7 Scott Glen/Don 127 PM2
8 Amanda Milliken/Howell 125 AM2
9 Tom Wilson/Kate 122 PM1
10 Lynn Johnston/Jesse 122 PM2
11 (out) Alan Mills/Sis 121 AM2
12 (out) Vicki Close/Jesse 119 PM1
13 (out) Carol Nelson/Kale 118 AM2

 Wednesday (9 qualifiers—RT:2,DQ:9)

Placing for Day Handler/Dog Team Preliminary Score AM1/AM2         PM1/PM2*
1 Candy Kennedy/Gear 141 AM1


2 Louanne Twa/Gus 140 PM1
3 Don Helsley/3C Jessie 133 PM2
4 Lasoya Lerma/Blazn Beau 130 AM1
5 Noel Williams/JumpinW Dusty 121 AM2
6 Margaret Johnson/Fellside Fleet 120 PM1
7 Shauna Gourley/Jade 118 AM2
8 Libby Nieder/Phoenix 115 PM1
9 Amanda Milliken/Monty 115 PM2
10 (In) Tom Wilson/Meg 114 PM1

Thursday (11 qualifiers—RT:5,DQ:6)

Placing for Day Handler/Dog Team Preliminary Score AM1/AM2         PM1/PM2*
1 Lee Lumb/Gus 154 AM2
2 Faansie Basson/Molly 152 AM1
3 Bill Berhow/Cole 151 AM2
4 Scott Glen/Alice 150 PM2
5 Bridget Strang/Treat 147 PM2
6 Bev Lambert/Nan 130 AM1
7 Norm Close/Craig 129 PM1
8 Carol Nelson/Tiki 129 PM1
9 Ron Enzeroth/Mick 128 AM1
10 Fernando Loiola Alves/Lexi 127 AM2
11 (Out) Mindy Bower/Griz 126 AM2


*Note:  AM1 = early morning and includes the first 9 runs of the day.  AM2 = late morning and includes 9 to 10 runs.  PM1 = early afternoon and includes the first 9 runs of the afternoon.  PM2 = late afternoon and includes the final 9 to 10 runs of the day.

It is important to remember that if you select teams by the day they compete, ties would not be by overall competition, but by the day on which the tie occurred.

Another way  to look at these data is by overall ranking.  For example, Mindy Bower and Griz ranked 26th overall in the 2015 preliminary runs, but would have been eliminated from advancing to the semi-finals had there been a 10 per day system in place.  Mindy Bower and Possum ranked 43rd overall would have made it into the semi-finals.  If Possum is her better dog she might have been pleased.  Otherwise, maybe not so much. Tom Wilson with Meg, ranked 45th overall in the preliminary runs and he would have been in the semi-finals over Alan Mills and Sis (ranked 32nd), Vicki Close and Jesse (ranked 36th), Carol Nelson (ranked 37th), and Mindy Bower and Griz (26th). As noted in the 2011 and 2014 reports, this may or may not become a bone of contention should the organization elect to change to a ten per day system.

 Looking at Time of Day

Handlers often comment on getting a “good draw” or a “bad draw” based on the time of day they run.  We decided to look at who had moved forward to the semi-finals or had been disqualified or retired from the preliminary competition based on the time of day of their draw.  We divided the day into four parts of nine or ten runs each.  Those designations included: early morning(AM1), late morning(AM2), early afternoon(PM1), late afternoon(PM2).(See Table 3) There were several things we noticed that are perhaps worth mentioning. First, the top score during the preliminaries was achieved by Bev Lambert and Joe. This team ran on the first day in the third spot. Some handlers believe that a first day draw early in the morning is the equivalent to the “kiss of death.”  This was not the case in 2015. Secondly, we thought it interesting that the number of teams advancing into the semi-finals each day was almost the same as the number of teams who received a DQ or an RT.  (See table 3 below.) This might suggest that no particular day or time of the day was easier or more difficult. Thirdly, our hats are off to the judges of 2015 Finals.  Given that the draw is random, judging did not appear to be impacted by day or time of the day.

TABLE 3:  Time of day results broken out plus ten/day scenario of using same time breakouts

Day Total


Advancing to

Semi-Finals (Current System)


Time of Day in Quarters Breakdown by Time

of Day:


(Current System)



By Time

of Day:





Qualifiers if using 10/day system
Monday 9 AM1 1 1 1
AM2 3 2 3
PM1 3 2 3
PM2 2 1 3
Tuesday 13 AM1 0 3 0
AM2 7 0 5
PM1 3 3 2
PM2 3 3 3
Wednesday 9 AM1 2 3 2
AM2 2 2 2
PM1 3 2 4
PM2 2 4 2
Thursday 11 AM1 3 0 3
AM2 4 2 3
PM1 2 3 2
PM2 2 8 2


We were also interested in finding out whether day two had the fewest number of DQs and RT’s.  Knowing this would have lent credence to the notion that day two had been an “easier” day because more teams than other days had advanced to the semi-final round. However, as you can see, that was not the case. We are left not being sure whether day two was better because the lineup of teams was stronger, or, whether the sheep gods were happier, or ? Without further analysis, one is left to speculate.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Over the last decade we have observed that the composition of handlers is beginning to change.  We decided to look at the male/female ratio of handlers in the preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals. On Monday, 25 women and 12 men competed in the preliminary round; on Tuesday, 24 women and 14 men; Wednesday, 26 women and 12 men; Thursday, 20 women and 17 men.  Sixty-three percent of the handlers in the preliminary round were women (95) and 37% were men (55). Of the teams in the preliminary round that made it into the semi-finals, 62% (26) were women and 38% (16) were men. (See table 4)

Table 4:  Breakdown of field by male/female handlers

2015 Breakdown of the Field by Male/Female Handlers
Day Female Handlers Male Handlers
Monday 25 12
Tuesday 24 14
Wednesday 26 12
Thursday 20 17
Total 95 (63%) 55 (37%)


We have looked at the results from 2011, 2014, and 2015.  Although we were not able to conduct a statistical analysis, our visual examination leads us to conclude that neither day of the week, nor time of day impacts on a teams’ ability to qualify for the semi-finals.  This is not surprising as away from the trial field, handlers routinely work in all types of weather conditions and at all times of the day.  Handlers and their dogs are adept at adapting to a variety of conditions.  Similarly, judges are able to remain focused and consistent across varying conditions throughout the day and from day-to-day.


The decision to stay the course by having the top 40 teams move into the semi-finals, or, to change to a system whereby the top ten teams from each day move forward into the semi-finals is a very interesting one. Going to ten qualifying teams per day would allow for the trial to continue should:

  • a judge become sick,
  • sheep become mixed, and/or
  • sheep become scarce and less than five per packet must be run

Changing from the current system to a ten per day system implies that there is something inherently wrong with the current system.  Our data does not support this.  If a change is made one has to undertand, and be comfortable with sitting on the sidelines during semi-finals even if your team had a higher score than the team on the field. In 2015, four teams would have been sidelined, while two teams with lower scores competed. And, these score discrepancies were not small.  One sidelined team had scored twelve points higher than two of the teams competing. This team ranked 26th at the end of the preliminary round. Last, and most importantly, one has to understand and be comfortable with competing against 37 teams on your assigned day during the preliminary round at the USBCHA National Finals, rather than the current 149 teams.


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