This past weekend I had the privilege to work at the Masters World Championships for Scottish Heavy Athletics. The MWC was hosted by New Mexico Celtic Athletics, and was held at the Rio Grande Celtic Festival and Highland Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I have been involved with Scottish Heavy Athletics for less than a year now. Some of the athletes competing in the MWC have been participating in Heavy Athletics for as long as I have been alive. There were dozens of former World Champions and World Record holders at the event. I am a complete noob. I don’t know any of them. To put it in perspective, it’s like going to watch the Masters golf tournament and not knowing who Tiger Woods is.
The competition was divided into two days. The first day was devoted to MWC throwers, and on the second day, the rest of us ordinary mortals threw. I competed on the second day, but the first day I volunteered to work. I ended up alternating between being a Measurer- running a tape measure out onto the field to measure the distance of an athlete’s throw- and a Shagger- picking up the thrown weights and returning them for the next athlete to throw. One of the groups, the Men’s Under 200 weight class, wouldn’t permit me to shag stones for them. One of the guys said, “Just stand there and look pretty.” Well, okay… but I really can carry a 22lb stone as far as you can throw it. Maybe he said it because I was dressed in pink, and he confused me for a dainty girl. I dunno.
After lunch, I was Measuring for the Men’s 60-65 age group on Braemar Stone and Open Stone. Both of these events are like shot put in track. You hold the stone at shoulder level, touching it to your neck or cheek, and chuck it as far as you can throw it. In Braemar the stone is heavier, and you’re not allowed to move your feet when you throw it. In Open the stone is lighter and you can move your feet however you want. These are old guys, but they are still throwing the Braemar stone over 20 feet. On a good day I can only throw Braemar stone about 9 feet. So I am impressed.
Then, I had the privilege to measure a World Record in Open Stone.
To set the scene: there I am- a vision in pink- standing out in the field holding a measuring tape on a stick. The athlete throws, and I run over to where the stone lands, jam the measuring stick into the divot in the ground, the judge back at the trig straightens the tape, then calls out the official measure for the throw.
I’m standing out in the field some 20 feet away from where they are throwing. One of the athletes seems to have an issue about where I am standing. Every time he walks up to the trig, he makes a little “push back” motion with his hand, asking me to go out further onto the field. Being a noob, I don’t know who this guy is. In my mind I start calling him Purple Socks, because he’s wearing kilt hose so blue that they are borderline purple. All through the rotation on Braemar Stone, as Purple Socks approaches the trig, he tells me to push back. He throws farther than the other guys, so i start winding out the tape in anticipation of his throws.
Then these guys move on to Open Stone. For his first throw, Purple Socks comes to the trig, and he does the little “push back” thing again. I take a few steps back, but he’s not happy, and he pushes me back some more. I still don’t go back far enough. Purple Socks blasts the stone a few feet past where I am standing. Oh. It’s gonna be like that, huh? The shagger jokes with him, “Are you going to throw it all the way to Las Cruces?” Las Cruces is 225 miles away.
Second throw. Purple Socks is up, he gives me the push-back, and I step waaaay back, and off to the side. I’m standing about 38ft away from the trig now. He’s already got my respect. I can’t help myself and I start to taunt him a little. I give him a little “come on” hand motion and I say “Bring it!” Purple Socks hurls the stone, and that thing is coming straight for my head! I take a giant leap backwards, and the stone lands just about where I was standing. I think it was 38ft 6 inches. The judge flips through the paperwork on his clipboard, and verifies that’s a new World Record distance. Some of the guys run out and put a stake in his divot. Somebody runs to find the Athletic Director to verify the record. I’m thinking, thank goodness they put the stake in his divot, because I don’t want to lose track of which divot belongs to Purple Socks. But then I’m looking around, and I realize that divot is out there by itself. We verify the World Record, the other guys shake his hand and slap his shoulder, and we move on.
Purple Socks comes up for his third throw. I am still taunting him, so I make a big show of stepping waaay back. This time I point to my head and say, “Come on! Hit me in the head this time! Bring it!” He’s still not happy with where I am standing, and asks me to come in a little- just about where his World Record throw was. He wants me to stand about a foot in front of the stake. Purple Socks throws- and damn, if that stone isn’t flying straight for my head again! I jump out of the way. The stone grazes the stake, sending the stake flying out of the ground- and this throw lands three inches from his last throw- 39ft 9inches. One of the other throwers says, “At least he’s consistent!” Purple Socks hollers at me, “I needed you closer so I could throw past you.” Great, I’m glad my head can be so useful for target practice. This time I know the drill, and I jam the measuring tape into the divot and just stand there looking pretty until somebody can track down the AD to verify this fresh new World Record.
After the other throwers finish, Purple Socks is allowed to take 3 additional throws. At this point I just throw up my arms up and ask, “Where do you want me to stand now?” He chucks the stones at my head and I measure the throws. They are all close, but they don’t break the second World Record.
Later I ask our judge, “Who is that guy?” Purple Socks’ real name is Bill Leffler. He holds 9 Masters World Championships World Records. Great. I’d been taunting a World Champion. It’s no wonder why he’d been throwing those stones at my head.
Taunting a World Champion… Just another service I offer.
(An aside: I am not certain that these measurements I discuss are accurate. If they are wrong I will update this post with the correct numbers, after they are posted.)