Amy Wattles: Heathen Highland Games Write Up

TAGS: Amy Wattles, highland games, MEET

Organized Band of Heathens Highland Games

I woke up at 5AM and like always, the plan the day before seemed so much better than when it was actually time to roll out of bed. I got up for a few minutes, and then went back to bed. I decided to stay home and in bed where every normal person should be at 5AM on a Saturday morning. Then, the Catholic guilt set in...I made a commitment to be there, so I finally got up about 5:45AM and ran out the door at 6:15AM. I had a peaceful two hour drive, saw some faces I’ve missed seeing and was happy I made it out of bed.

My plan was to treat this as a training day. I've only trained half the events so far this season. I didn’t have all of my heights planned out. I had goals with my hammers and weights for distance, but that was about it. There were four women throwing with me and they were a joy to hang out with all day. I was thrilled that Lyman Asay was out throwing. She has been ranked a little higher than me on NASGAweb over the past couple of years somewhere in the high 20’s out of 220 female throwers. Last year when we competed together, I beat her one time and she beat me the other time by one point. It was very close, so I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Here’s the rundown of events based off of my understanding of the measurements. They could be off a few inches or so. If you’re not interested in reading event results, scroll to the end to the final thoughts.

Heavy Hammer

My goal for this way 60 feet. Based off of my one practice with the hammer and minor technique changes, I felt confident I'd see some improvements. I reduced my turns to two because I lose speed on the third turn. My best throw for the day was 58’ ¼”. I did not hit my goal of 60” but this was a nice competition PR for me. I took first on this event.

Light Hammer

My goal for this event was 80 feet - 66’ 1 ¼” was my result. I was far off the 80 feet mark. This is an improvement from last year, but still off the mark from my first season. From my first competition, this throw has steadily declined. I see this throw as movement in the right direction. I took first in this event.

Stones

Lyman is fantastic with her stone throws, so I knew she would win these two events and we would be tied. My braemar was a pathetic 21’ 3” and my open stone was 27’2”. I have poor technique on these events. I just can’t seem to get the hips and release down properly. I took second to Lyman on both of these events. Any distance I ever get is simply due to brute force and nothing else.

Weight for Height

In my two years throwing, my best competition throw was 14’6” and in practice has been 16”. Last season I was lucky to even get 13 feet. Previous to last year, 14 feet was a guaranteed height. I am only good for a max of four throws on this event so it was important to plan my throws out properly. I opened at 12 feet easy, then 13 easy and had a decision to make. I wanted to move past 13 as a symbolic gesture that things were going better this season but I didn’t want to miss 14 feet. I decided to split the difference and attempt 13’ 6”. I was successful. I took first in this event and was ahead by one point.

Sheaf

OMG! I completely blanked and had no idea where my previous height PRs were. Thankfully I decided to just start at the opening of 10 feet because I wasn’t sure where I should've come in. The sheaf was wound exceptionally tight and it was a struggle to get the bag to actually leave the forks. The warm-up messed with my head and I just couldn’t get the bag loose enough to properly flick it up and over. No amount of oil, stretching or working with the sheaf was making a difference. I maxed out at 12 feet. I have NEVER, EVER thrown that low. I'm not a fan of excuses. However, this really was an issue with the sheaf. Many competitors really struggled with this sheaf and getting it to properly release. I ended up in second on this event and now Lyman and I were tied. I felt like I could gain some ground on the WFD.

HWFD

My goal for the day was anything over 30 feet, but I was hoping for closer to 35 feet. Late in the season last year, I finally implemented the double spin and was able to pick up some distance. The oddest thing happened on my first two throws. I was horribly dizzy and couldn’t even land my turns. I felt like I had too much to drink and had no clue what was going on and why I was feeling like that. This feeling never happened before and I was pretty worried. I started drinking a lot of water and on my third throw I was hoping I'd feel a little better. I threw 30 feet, 10 inches. This was another competition PR, so I was pleased with the result. I took first in this event.

LWFD

My goal on this was 60 feet or more. Like the HWFD, I was horribly dizzy on my first throw. After lots more water I felt better on my second throw. Transitioning from HWFD and LWFD is challenging for me to get the timing down. I ended up mustering 52 feet 1 inch or something like that, a good amount off of previous throws since I’ve incorporated the double spin. Lyman threw 52’ 3”-ish. It was ridiculous how close we were and I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t throw my usual best. We were now tied and only the caber was left. Experience tells me when the caber is the tie breaker, I generally fold under the pressure and end up losing.

Caber

I have no idea what the size/weight of the caber was. It was very wet and by all accounts it was a pig of a caber. Neither myself nor Lyman were able to flip it. I wasn’t even able to get both hands underneath the bottom. My throws with the caber were literally with one hand starting at the waist. It was bad. Lyman scored 85 degrees and I was scored 70 degrees. Another ridiculously close event, but Lyman out-did me on this day.

Final Thoughts

I took second place, or in my book lost. Second place is the first loser, right? Truth be told, I needed to lose. My skills in highland games are only related to strength and a minuscule amount of technique. I'm proud of my abilities with the amount of time and dedication I put into it. I needed to lose in order to remind myself that I can’t expect to have something handed to me. I need to work harder in order to get the results I want. After this competition, all of my throws now place me in the A Class. I am thrilled about that accomplishment. Is it enough? I don’t know.

If I ever want to advance to the Pro Class, I have a lot of work, dedication and coaching ahead of me. In the end, it’s just about getting better each time I'm out there.

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