Conformation/Junior Showmanship

Paula Nykiel

Paula NyKiel of Washington, Missouri, has been involved in purebred dogs for over 40 years. She began as a breeder-owner-handler of Pointers and has bred over 50 champions under the Sydmar banner, including the breed’s all-time top producer, Ch. Sydmar the Heartless Wench. She handled her Pointers to number-one rankings in 1978, 1979, and 1982, scoring 15 all-breed Bests in Show, over 50 group firsts, and Best of Breed at the American Pointer Club national specialty.

Mrs. Nykiel is approved to judge the Sporting and Working groups and 26 Hound Breeds. She has judged at twenty two national specialties and numerous international venues.

Mrs. Nykiel is a past director and Futurity/Maturity chairman of the American Pointer Club. She was a founding member and officer of the Missouri Rhineland Kennel Club and the Gateway Sporting Dog Association, and is a member of the Three Rivers Kennel Club.

Mrs. Nykiel and her husband of 45 years, Frank Nykiel, have two grown daughters and three granddaughters and one grandson. The Nykiel family converted an 1860’s corn-cob pipe factory into their home and gardens on the Missouri River.


Kellie Fitzgerald

I started in dogs in 1975 with a Shetland Sheepdog. I took her to a local obedience club and started training her. She attained her American and Canadian CDX.  We could not go any further due to an eye issue. From there, we acquired a Belgian Tervuren.  She was another great obedience dog and I showed her to her championship. It was through my obedience club that I met various confirmation people and started learning about showing a dog.

In my junior year in high school, I went to work for Karen Prickett Miller and learned how to trim, show and care for Springer spaniels. I worked for her for two years. I went to work at Salilyn Kennels part time while still continuing to work for Karen. Karen then decided to retire from handling, and it was then I went to a full-time kennel manager position at Salilyn. I worked there for the next 18 years, learning about well-being, raising puppies, breeding bitches that other breeders sent to Salilyn stud dogs, and training young hopefuls that were kept as show potential puppies. Julie Gasow passed away in April 1999. I continued to stay at Salilyn for a year after that then moved out east to Delaware to start my handling career, showing for other clients, in April 2000.

I have had many highlights in my handling career showing Springers. Best In Show Westminster in 2000 (with Samantha) and in 2007 (with James), Best in Show at American Spaniel Club and also Best in Show at the AKC Invitational (with James), as well as 4 National Specialty Bests of Breed. On a personal level, I was awarded handler of the year in 2016. This award meant a great deal to me, since it is voted upon by your peers.

I am currently breeding Springers under the Legacy prefix, since that is what was left to me by my mentor and close friend Julia Gasow.

Obedience/Rally Judges

Coming Soon

Scent Work Judge

Virginia Huxley PhD CNWI

Virginia Huxley
Virginia Huxley, PhD, CNWI

Dogs, thankfully have always been a part of my life with a few notable, stressful intervals (like moving to New York City and having to leave the family dogs in the country). Serious training and participation in performance sports now spans 4 decades. English Springer Spaniels are my chosen breed: US, UK, and European lines. In addition to conformation, obedience, rally, agility, and free style, I became addicted to the sports/work of springers catering to their strengths:  Field, tracking, dock diving, and Nosework. Barn Hunt had posed a bit more of a challenge with various of my dogs showing disinterest, disdain, or huge enthusiasm for the endeavor. Working the other scent-based sports though has facilitated a break through with 4 currently now playing Barn Hunt too. I have instructed and titled in all the fields in which I perform/compete; currently my canine instruction focuses primarily on Puppy Training and Nosework/Scentwork. To support my dog habit and settle my all too enquiring mind I teach and conduct research as a Professor of Medical Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of Missouri – Columbia and Director of the National Center for Gender Physiology.  In my ‘free time’ I became a certified Nosework instructor (CNWI) in 2011, a Barn Hunt judge in 2014, and an AKC Scentwork Judge in 2017.


Jean Hilbig

Jean has been training dogs for performance events since the 1970s. She started with a

Team Rendezvous 2
Jean Hilbig

Labrador Retriever, and then fell in love with English Springer Spaniels. She has shared her life with 9 Springer spaniels. She has earned titles in obedience, rally, agility, tracking, CGC, conformation, AKC Scent Work, Dock Diving and NACSW K9 Nosework.

In 1996, Jean’s Springer Spaniel, Dodger,  became the 12th dog, and the first Springer Spaniel to earn the AKC Champion Tracker Title. She became a tracking judge in 2003 and is licensed to judge all four levels of AKC Tracking. Jean and her Springers have earned a total of 4 Champion Tracker Titles.

Jean extended her fascination with a dog’s scenting abilities into NACSW Nosework in 2014. She has a Springer competing in the Elite Division.  She became an AKC Scent Work Judge in 2017. She is currently competing in AKC Scent Work.

Jean Chaired the ESSFTA Inaugural Scent Work Trial at the 2018 National at Purina Farms. She is very excited about getting the opportunity to judge the 2019Trial.

Agility Judge

Coming Soon