Amy Wattles: Newport Highland Games Recap

TAGS: recap, Amy Wattles, highland games

Competing at the Newport Highland Games was one of the most fun competitions I've done in a while. I might say that after every competition I do, but I really mean it this time. This was the first year for the Newport Highland Games and it proved to be a great competition.

There were eight women throwing, so it was very exciting. Lacy made the trek down to throw with me, and Steve Pulcinella was there as well. Going into the competition, I knew I was going to be throwing up against Kristy Scott, who was ranked in the teens last year on the NASGAweb. My goal was to do my best, set some PRs, have a good time and pick Steve’s brain on my throwing. I ended up in second place...which is pretty ok in my book.

My throws for the day were:

  • Braemar Stone – 21 ft. 6 in.
  • Open Stone – 27 ft. 2 in.
  • LWFD – 53 ft 6in
  • HWFD – 32 ft 1 in (competition PR)
  • Light Hammer – 65 ft 2.25 in
  • Weight Over Bar – 13 feet
  • Sheaf – 18 feet (PR)
  • Caber – no toss but some tears like a little girl

Steve made it a point to come over and watch each of my events and I'm grateful for his thoughtfulness. He provided tips and advice which were beneficial. The biggest improvement I experienced was my sheaf, although I just threw myself out by the time we got to 18 feet. After the last fiasco with sheaf, I wanted to play it safe and came in at 12 feet and the height went up at one foot increments. By 18 feet, I was tired. The best advice Steve gave me on this was to shrug and explode. It obviously worked.

On the LWFD and HWFD we had a good conversation about how my turns stink and the weight is always opposite of where it needs to be in the turns. Basically, if the weight should've been up while turning, I had it down. Strength is what carries the distance on my throws, not technique. I already knew that, but now I have an idea of how to improve these events.

My caber has gone to hell. It used to be a strong suit of mine, now it just blows. I had the help of Steve and Alan Wersing providing input on picking up the caber. The first two attempts were bad. I should have listened to Alan's advice. Steve told me to clasp my hands shut. I told him with his special tacky, I couldn't move my hands. Like a genius he told me that was the point, I didn't want them to move.

On the third attempt, I had my hands clasped closed, the caber started to fall and I couldn’t release my grip. The caber fell onto my hand and I heard a bunch of crunching noises. I walked off the field in tears due to the pain. No turn on this event. Not even close. I was done and just iced my hand and wiped away my tears with no self respect left. In my defense I have a really high threshold for pain and this hurt...A LOT.

On Saturday I went to do the skillet toss and at that time, I was the only one there to throw. Magnus and I were warming up and he broke the handle off the skillet throwing it. We came off the field, a lady arrived and started warming up with the other skillet. She also broke the handle off the skillet and the event was called off. On Sunday after the Highland Games, I went over there to redeem myself. There was a new skillet and it was wrapped with a pillow in a pillow case. Any style throwing was acceptable. My three attempts went super far, but ended up in the stands. Lacy threw like a champ, somewhere over 40 feet and she won a prize for her efforts. I was bummed by the whole deal, but it really was a great time. By that time it was raining and the kids were cold and wet. We decided to leave and not watch the challenge caber or anchor toss.

We returned back to the hotel. I received a call that Steve blew out his knee on the challenge caber and was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I put some dry clothes on and went up to check in on him and Jalaine. One of the first things out of Steve’s mouth was something to the effect of, “Yeah, how’s your hand doing now?” Just thinking about the anguish on Steve and Jalaine’s faces still brings tears to my eyes. I hung out for a bit, trying to find a way to be helpful and headed back to the hotel. Seeing a teammate in that condition is tough and any comparison or thoughts I have about the situation are shadowed 1000 percent by the pain, anguish and frustration both of them were feeling.

In all of my years in strongman, I never saw a competitor taken out in an ambulance. I’ve seen someone carried off with a torn something or other, but that’s the worst of it. Last year at a highland games competition, our friend Connie Nielsen was hit in the shoulder by a men’s LWFD sailing through the air at 65+ feet and hit her square in the shoulder. It was gruesome and I thought she was dead. This year it was Pulcinella. These sports are inherently dangerous, but the frequency of severe injuries is making me think. I am pretty good at throwing, although it is secondary to strongman right now. That’s a nice place to be. I am sort of rethinking my participation in highland games as long as strongman is my primary focus. I will likely do one more highland games this year, but beyond that, I'm not going to commit.

The Newport Highland Games really was a great competition. It was well-ran and a tremendous amount of fun. I got to meet Jay O’Neill, which was a highlight since I've been reading his stuff for a while now. I was always amazed he and I never crossed paths since we both live in the west. Rick Baird, Buck Tatem, Kaelyn Mowell were a pleasure to meet and did an outstanding job running a smooth competition. I cannot thank Ric Rabourn enough for hosting us at the spectacular Hallmark Inn right on the beach. We were able to turn this competition into a small vacation and get out and really enjoy the Oregon Coast. I am hopeful that Ric will come out this way sometime in the future and we can all throw down and do some crazy training. Thank you really isn’t adequate for Ric’s kindness and hospitality.

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