The 30th anniversary of the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and HIghland Games proved to be the perfect setting for John Anthony to win the A group, which qualified him for the finals of the IHGF All-American Highland Games Championships to be held at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival and Highland Games in September.
2018 Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games
by Francis Brebner
President, International Highland Games Federation (IHGF)
The 2018 Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attracted more than six thousand spectators on its 30th anniversary, as it hosted the fourth leg of the IHGF All-American Highland Games Qualifying Series. Over 100 athletes from across the USA competed in the A, B and C, masters, lightweight, novice, and youth categories, with several field records and eight world records established.
The eight heavies in the A group included John Anthony, Sean Burns, Andrew Heaton, R. J. Sutherland, Mike Dickens, Jeffrey Duer, Chad Thompson, and Bryan Staggs .
The competition had a riveting start in the 22-lb. Braemar stone, where Anthony took the early lead with a putt just over 40’. Burns stayed close at just over 39’ and in the final round the tables turned, with Burns mustering a class putt of 42’ 2-1/2” for the win and a new field record. Anthony was second at 41’ 7-1/4”, with Dickens third at 38’ 7-1/2”.
The 16-lb. open stone was a dingdong battle between Burns, Dickens, and Anthony, with only inches separating them after the dust had settled. Burns took the win and a second field record with a putt 48’ 10”. Dickens followed with 48’ 4-3/4” with Anthony in third at 48’ 2-3/4”.
The 56-lb. weight for distance was another skirmish between the top three, with Dickens pulling out the win with 37’ 7-3/4”. Close behind in second was Thompson at 37’ 3” and third was Anthony at 36’ 10-1/4”.
The next event, the 28-lb. weight for distance, was for the title of the IHGF All-American 28-lb. Weight for Distance Championships. Thompson and Dickens went head to head with the win going to Thompson at 74’ 8-1/4”. Dickens was second at 73’ 4-3/4” and Sutherland third at 71’ 7-1/4”.
In the 22-lb. hammer, R. J. Sutherland lobbed a crushing class throw of 115’ 1/2” for the win and a new field record. Anthony was second with 100’ 2-1/2” and Burns third at 95’ 10-3/4”.
Sutherland repeated his great form in the 16-lb. hammer, delivering a series of nobles throws with his best at 126’ 9-1/2” for win and another field record. He was followed by Anthony in second at 118’ 8-1/4” and Burns in third at 114’ 5”.
The 56-lb. weight over bar was won by Duer at a dominating height of 16’, also a new field record. Second place was a tie between Heaton and Sean Burns at 15’.
Duer won the caber (18’ 7” long and 130-lb.) on countback over Thompson when they both produced 12:00 tosses. Third was Dickens at 12:05.
In the 20-lb. sheaf toss, Anthony and Burns both cleared the monster height of 32’, a new field record, with the win going to Anthony on countback. Third place was Duer at 30’.
1. John Anthony 7767
2. Jeffrey Duer 7411
3. R. J. Sutherland 7395
4. Mike Dickens 7354
5. Chad Thompson 7212
6. Andrew Heaton 7098
7. Sean Burns 7034
8. Bryan Staggs 6070
The IHGF would like to thank athletic director Chad Thompson, along with Grant Oliver, assistant director, and Laura Thompson and Mona Melic for all their hard work in keeping things flowing during the weekend; and all the judges and the RMSA for looking after all the athletes so well, with a very nice lunch on the field.
John Anthony, of Colorado, has been added to the qualifying list, along with athletes including Kyle Lillie, Andrew Heaton, and Anthony Clinker, and will go forward to the finals of the IHGF All-American Highland Games Championships, to be held at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival and Highland Games in September.
The next qualifying games on the circuit will be this coming weekend at the Scottish Fest USA Costa Mesa Highland Games, the fifth leg of the IHGF All-American Highland Games Qualifying Series.
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