August 20, 2009
Nine pros to compete in Saturday’s Highland Games
Seven men and two women — all professional athletes — will compete in Saturday’s Highland Games as part of the ninth annual Cortland Celtic Festival in Courthouse Park.
Will Barron, a Syracuse native who is organizing the day’s athletics as well as competing, said the games will consist of seven officially-sanctioned events that originated in 10th-century Scotland. The games will run from about 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The festival was moved from the county fairgrounds to Courthouse Park in 2007.
For distance, competitors will throw a 16-pound rounded stone, a 56-pound block with attached chain and handle, a 28-pound weight, a 22-pound Scottish hammer, and the distinctive Scottish caber, which resembles a log. Contestants will also compete to see who can throw the 28-pound weight the highest, and to see who can use a pitchfork to heave a 20-pound sheaf of hay the highest.
Barron said this is the first year that the Celtic Festival will include the Scottish hammer toss. In years past, safety concerns precluded the event, but this year, organizers have secured a metal cage to keep onlookers safe.
Barron said modern track and field events have roots in games that originated in the Scottish highlands.
“The shot put and the hammer throw were taken directly from the highland games,” he said.
This year’s professional competition includes Barron and his brother, David Barron, who placed third in the Highland Games World Championship this year; Harrison Bailey III of eastern Pennsylvania, who placed fifth in the world championship last year and holds a world record in a weight for height throwing event; Michael Zolkiewicz, another world-record holder in weight for height; Rob Hamelin of Connecticut; Bill Monnette of Parish, Oswego County; Sam Grammar, of Connecticut.
Two Connecticut women, professional highland gamers Lacey Johnson and Kate Mason, will compete against each other Saturday as well.
Barron said he was drawn to Celtic sports after competing in shot-put and discus events beginning in middle school and through his years in college. With the weights involved in highland games, he said it pays to have extensive training and experience.
“It’s hard to really get the weight moving until you know how to apply force to it,” he said.
Eventually, he said, the proper movements become muscle memory.
Barron said the athletes will have the implements available for interested festivalgoers to examine, and the athletes will be available to answer questions as well.
The Cortland Celtic Festival opens at 10 a.m. Saturday in Courthouse Park, and in addition to the games will feature bagpipers, children’s crafts and face-painting, history and genealogy exhibits, animal exhibits with alpacas and Celtic dogs, and vendors with food and gifts.
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