Sports

Highlanders get into the fling of things at Greenbank Farm

Jeremiah Strand gives the stone a hefty heave in Saturday’s Scottish Highland Games in Greenbanks. Strand was the overall winner in the amateur division.  - Jim Woolbright
Jeremiah Strand gives the stone a hefty heave in Saturday’s Scottish Highland Games in Greenbanks. Strand was the overall winner in the amateur division.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright

Stones were flung, hammers were hurled and poles were tossed at one of the island’s most unique sporting events of the year Saturday.

The fourth annual Whidbey Island Scottish Highland Games at Greenbank Farm attracted a flock of novices and amateurs to try their hand at the stone, the Scottish hammer throw and the caber toss, the latter a tall pole that was perhaps the day’s most challenging event.

Julie Riise, an island resident and former multi-event champion in the Scottish games, spent this year helping judge the events. “We had 22 competitors, mostly novices,” she said. “The hardest was the caber pole,” she added, pointing out the difficulty of balancing a long, heavy pole and then tossing it straight ahead.

Competitors huffed and puffed their way through 28-pound and 56-pound stone throws, for both height and distance, depending on the event.

The Scottish hammer is round and made of metal, while the handle is made of cane. The hammer weighs 16 pounds for men and 14 for women.

The caber poles ranged from 13- to 17-feet in length and weighed from 70 to 120 pounds. Riise said the event originated in Scottish boglands, where it was necessary to lay poles to walk across wetlands. That explains why the main point of the contest is to throw the pole end-over-end so it lands straight.

When their competition ended, there were a number of winners. In the novice division, Jason Artis of Langley came out on top, followed by Greg Butcher of Lynnwood and Adam Wahl of Lynnwood.

In the more advanced amateur competition, Jeremiah Strand of Stanwood was the hands-down winner. Strand is ranked as one of the top five Scottish games athletes in the U.S., and is getting ready for the world championships in Pleasanton, Calif., in September.

The Scottish Highland Games also included dancing events, piping and drumming competitions and a “flyball” contest for dogs. The crowd was good and the conditions were fine. “The weather was beautiful,” Riise said. “A lot of sunburns.”

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