Ithaca local takes second place at Scottish Highland Games

ITHACA, NY – The Scottish Highland Games are one of the oldest competitions in brute strength and involve throwing lots of heavy things into awkward shapes for height and accuracy while wearing a kilt.

The caber toss is probably what people think of when they hear about the Highland Games, and the event involves throwing a 20ft pole (which looks like a telephone pole) so that it lands at the perfect 12 o’clock. of the athlete, which is how it is then scored.

Other events include pitchforking a 10-pound burlap and throwing it a certain height, only to be rewarded for your success by having to throw it even higher on your next turn.

There’s also stone throwing and shot put, says Ithaca resident Courtney McGuire, who has been competing in highland games for nearly 12 years and just finished second in her age group at the his last games in June.

She first became involved when she saw the Ithaca Scottish Games and Celtic Festival formerly held at Stewart Parkalthough unfortunately this event has since been discontinued.

“I was like, I could probably do something with this stick,” she laughed, going on to say that his wife suggested he get involved. “Three weeks later, I was completely distraught in my first games,” McGuire said.

McGuire compared some of the highland events to those in track and field, saying many people are new to the sport after high school and college careers in track and field.

In school, McGuire had played softball, basketball and hockey, but had no knowledge or experience of throwing events – “The best part of the Highland Games is the community. Even though you are competing against each other, everyone is there to help everyone learn to improve and encourage them,” she said, laughing and comparing it to the “more big family reunion that you would like to attend.

While it can be a light competitive sport, people want to challenge themselves and improve, so training, at least for McGuire, happens year-round.

McGuire has been competing in the World Masters Championships since 2015, and the competition season varies depending on how many games participants can and want to compete in. The games are held throughout the year around the world, and for the past two years athletes have had to consider COVID-19 travel restrictions when deciding where they want to compete.

The games are run like a decathlon, but the world games are split into two days to accommodate over 150 athletes and maximize the venue’s field space.

Athletes must also submit their numbers which are then put into a national database, which is then combed through by the committee that issues invitations to athletes, who are usually limited to groups of no more than 12.

McGuire’s training is year-round, with the exception of a two-week break after his season ends in early fall. Typically, she said, workouts focus on Olympic-style heavy lifts with props mixed in. are, and I’m counting eight weeks for a specific program that includes a lot of cardio.

Adding cardio and conditioning helps McGuire improve his stamina for competition. “Mass displaces mass, and I’m competing against girls who are a foot and a half taller than me,” she said.

McGuire meets a few days a week with the self-proclaimed Danby Heavies, a group that likes to train in members’ backyards.

Since the Ithaca Scottish Games are no longer taking place, McGuire’s goal over the next few years is to run a clinic at the Trumansburg Fairgrounds to increase the visibility of the sport and involve more people locally.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about having fun. What’s cool for me is that I can have fun, see friends and travel all over the world competing,” she said.


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Jennifer R. Strohm