Olympia resident Sydney Gersich, 12, and her dog Spitfire have literally made a splash in the world of dock diving.
You may have seen the sport on display at a county fair, where dogs compete by running and jumping for distance — horizontally or vertically — into a pool in pursuit of a toy.
Sydney and Spitfire could be considered dock-diving prodigies. Their first competition took place in July, and after racking up multiple wins in the U.S. and Canada, they hold the top spot on the DockDogs worldwide rankings in the Big Air category for horizontal jumping.
For the Big Air category, the dog, which may be placed anywhere on the 40 foot dock, runs and jumps into the water after a throw toy. The distance is judged from the end of the dock to where the tail set of the dog breaks the water’s surface, according to dockdogs.com.
Spitfire is a 4-year-old whippet, a speedy greyhound-like breed that’s better known for hunting rabbits than for swimming. However, the dog has beat other breeds, such as retrievers and Belgian Malinois, to come within 2 feet of the Big Air record of about 30 feet.
Sydney, a seventh-grader at Reeves Middle School, has been recognized as a top youth handler, most-improved handler and top rookie on the dock diving circuit. The chemistry between Sydney and Spitfire is obvious as she readies the dog for each jump.
And when he’s not diving, Spitfire also excels at being a lovable couch potato.
“He’s the sleepiest whippet we’ve ever had,” Sydney said as Spitfire snuggled up to her.
The duo was inspired to take up dock diving through another local champion combo: Olympia resident Diane Salts and her whippet Cochiti, who set a world record in 2012 with a 32-foot jump. Salts encouraged Sydney to train Spitfire at Brown Dog University in Gig Harbor, and the rest is history.
Her father, Albin Gersich, said they plan to compete next weekend at the Puyallup Spring Fair and eventually at another world championship this fall in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“She’s calm too. If something goes wrong, she doesn’t get freaked out by it,” he said. “The two of them just work out great together.”