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Hundreds gather for dog competition in Sayville

Matt Derfler, of Absecon, N.J., prepares to throw

Matt Derfler, of Absecon, N.J., prepares to throw a Frisbee to his 1-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, Wizard, during the 6th annual Everything's Jake New York Disc Dog Championship in Sayville on Saturday. (July 7, 2012) Credit: Michael Cusanelli

Spectators clapped and cheered as Charley leaped off his owner, Sarah Funt’s, back and grabbed a Frisbee out of the air.

The Australian shepherd completed his 2-minute freestyle Frisbee routine with Funt as the crowd of more than 400 spectators at Gillette Park cheered them on.

“You go out to a competition when you’re first starting and you see someone do [a trick] and think, ‘I could never do that,’ and then you do,” said Funt, 30, of East Setauket, who owns three rescued dogs. “This is what I love to do and the fact that I get to do it with my dogs is great.”

Fur and Frisbees flew through the air on Saturday as dogs and their owners competed in the 6th annual Everything’s Jake VI New York State Disc Dog Championship in downtown Sayville.

“I have a great time coming to the park, playing, competing,” said Martin Levy, 61, of Westchester. “It’s basically like a beer commercial for your entire life.”

Although the event is usually held in upstate New York, organizer Dan Huebner, 50, of Ridge, said he was proud to bring the annual disc competition back to Long Island.

“My favorite part is actually getting to see my friends go out there,” said Huebner. “They work so hard on these routines for freestyle. We don’t normally have crowds, so to see them get to do it in front of this many people is awesome for me.”

The competition featured 40 dogs and their owners from upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. Teams were given points based on their ability to to catch frisbees with style, accuracy and at varying distances.

“It’s just doing something with your dog,” said Matt Derfler, 48, of Absecon, N.J. “We always promote and tell people the best way to have a well behaved dog is to take him out and do something with him.“

The championship is held in memory of former competition organizer and Sayville native Alan Michalak, who died at in the age of 52 in 2010. Michalak and his Labrador retriever, Jake, were regular participants in the yearly competition.

“His goal was to get a crowd like this to watch the event and give people on Long Island something to do for free,” said Huebner, who was a close friend of Michalak. “And it looks like it really has grown into that, so I’m sure he’s really happy.”