Jess and her top dog

Queenstown teen Jess Wilkinson’s not wasting any time climbing to the top of the dog agility ladder.

Jess, 15, has been competing for the past five years and is already one of the youngest Kiwis to achieve a top 7% finish on 14 occasions.

The Wakatipu High Year 11 student first took over her brother’s old agility dog before she started working with her purebred border collie, Zoom, when he was 12 weeks old — thanks to lockdown, she had plenty of time training him, enabling the pair to enter their first competition when he was just 18 months old.

Jess Wilkinson, 15, and her competitive agility dog Zoom, 4. PHOTO: OLIVIA JUDD
Jess Wilkinson, 15, and her competitive agility dog Zoom, 4. PHOTO: OLIVIA JUDD
Now 4, Jess says his name is an accurate reflection of his performance on the course, which involves jumps, tunnels and weaving, where the fastest dog around it, with no mistakes, wins.

"He is very speedy.

"Zoom’s favourite part of agility is definitely weaving — every time he gets to the car after a run around a course he gets a whole bunch of treats for being quick, so I think he knows he’s a winner."

While Jess may be at the bottom of the age range compared to other competitors, she and Zoom, members of the Queenstown Dog Agility Club, are at the top of the leaderboard.

She’s currently sitting on ‘Agility Champion’ status — she’ll reach ‘Grand Champion’ status after she has 20 wins under her belt, which she’s well on her way to achieving.

Last week she was crowned the South Island secondary schools agility champion and jumping champion, while this weekend she’s competing in the highest class of a jumper’s competition in Dunedin.

Then in October Jess and Zoom will head to Wellington where they’ll compete in the "champ of champs" class — the most elite — where they’ll go up against the best of the best in the country, most of whom are twice Jess’ age.

Not that she’s phased by that.

"It’s quite nice showing up to competitions and being so much younger, knowing I’m the one to beat."