Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Wraps Up Another Successful Year of Competition

Published Monday, July 16, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Braidy Miller, 49, of Lebanon, Tenn., tosses the sheaf — a 20-pound burlap sack of hay — Saturday, July 14, at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C., where he was named Scottish Athlete of the Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Braidy Miller repeats as Scottish Athlete of the Games

At last year’s Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Braidy Miller battled it out with his younger brother, Brent, to edge him in seven Scottish heavyweight traditional athletic events to become Scottish Athlete of the Games.

Same story this year, except last year’s third place finisher, Wis Kiser, tied with Brent Miller for second.

Braidy Miller, from Lebanon, Tenn., finished first in three of the seven competitions: the 56-pound weight throw for distance, 40 feet and eight inches; the 22-pound hammer throw, 107 feet and four inches; and turning the caber with a 50-degree turn (180-degree is perfect).

None of the athletes could turn the caber, a telephone pole-like tree trunk flipped end over end. Last year, the caber was 19 feet. This year, it was 21 feet, six inches. Last year, it was dry, and this year, it was waterlogged and 15 to 20 pounds heavier, thanks to a heavy Thursday night rain.

Braidy finished second in the 28-pound weight throw for distance and tossing the sheaf (a 16-pound burlap sack of hay) with a pitchfork over a bar.

Brent Miller, from Gordonsville, Tenn., won the clachneart (16-pound stone) toss for distance, with 47 feet, eight inches, and the 28-pound for distance, with 77 feet, three inches. He finished second in the 56-pound weight tossed for height, with 16 feet on his second try.

Wes Kiser, from Gibsonville, N.C., won the sheaf toss with a height of 32 feet.

Braidy turns 50 in February, yet he competes across the country at the highest level among the Highland Games professionals.

“I compete in 12 to 15 games a year, with 10 being professional,” he said. “Last month, I came in second to the No. 1 ranked Highland Games professional athlete in the world at the Chicago games.

“I am getting older. I have some white showing on my head and goatee. What I do, though, is make fewer mistakes than my other competitors. I study my technique. I will be in contention or finish high in all the events. I won’t have a bad one. In the end, I’m right there.”

When asked about the spelling of his first name, Braidy, he said, “My mother wore braids. Some of the men in my family with long hair wore it braided. That’s how I got my name!”

Braidy is a middle school P.E. teacher and football coach in Nashville, Tenn. He loves the Grandfather Games and said, “I love the beauty of the place. The Games are more realistic to how they do the games in Scotland, and the crowds here are fantastic. Besides, I have a sister and brother-in-law in Newland.”

Braidy Miller prepares to turn the caber at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The Games took place July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Brent Miller of Gordonsville, Tenn., throws the 28-pound weight for a first-place-winning distance of 77’3” Saturday, July 14, at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Brent Miller tosses the 20-pound sheaf at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C., placing second overall (tying with Wes Kiser of Gibsonville, N.C.) in men’s Scottish heavy athletics. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Wes Kiser of Gibsonville, N.C., turns the caber — a 21-foot, six-inch wooden pole — Saturday, July 14, at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Kiser placed second overall (tying with Brent Miller of Gordonsville, Tenn.) in the Games, held July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Wes Kiser winds up to throw the 28-pound weight for distance at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, held July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Ryan Hastings named Track & Field Athlete of the Highland Games

Ryan Hastings ran away with the Track & Field Athlete of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Award — literally.

The Raleigh, N.C., speedster won the 100-, 220- and 440-yard dashes, as well as the 880 and mile runs, on Saturday, July 14, at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

Hastings’ 440, 880 and mile wins were the most exciting races the Games audience has seen in years. He defeated Aaron Hale, also of Raleigh, by one second in the 440-yard dash, two seconds in the 880-yard run and two seconds in the mile run. Thus, a total of five seconds determined the outcome of three long races.

Christian Carswell of Morganton, N.C., tried to jump ahead of Hastings in the Athlete of the Games competition, but ran out of events. Carswell won the long jump, triple jump and high jump to go with his second-place finishes in the 100 and 220-yard dashes.

Men’s Results

100-Yard Dash
1. Ryan Hastings (Raleigh, N.C.) – 10.6 seconds
2. Christian Carswell (Morganton, N.C.) – 11.12
2. Ryan Towler (Florence, S.C.) – 11.12

220-Yard Dash
1. Ryan Hastings – 26.97 seconds
2. Christian Carswell – 27.88

440-Yard Dash
1. Ryan Hastings – 1:09
2. Aaron Hale (Raleigh, N.C.) – 1:10

880-Yard Run
1. Ryan Hastings – 2:31
2. Aaron Hale – 2:33

Mile Run
1. Ran Hastings – 5:24
2. Aaron Hale – 5:26

Two-Mile Run
1. Aaron Hale – 11:32:6
2. Lee Bradley (Charlotte, N.C.) – 13:12

Pole Vault
1. Alan Cox (Johnson City, Tenn.) – 9’0”
2. Johnnie Dye (West Union, S.C.) – 8’6”

Long Jump
1. Christian Carswell – 18’10½”
2. Jon McKinney (Winston-Salem, N.C.) – 16’

Triple Jump
1. Christian Carswell – 39’4½”
2. Jon McKinney – 37’8½”

High Jump
1. Christian Carswell – 5’6”
2. Jon McKinney – 5’4”

Women’s Results

100-Yard Dash
1. Heather Capps (Asheville, N.C.) – 13.82 seconds
2. Julia Parr (Johnson City, Tenn.) – 14.34

Mile Run
1. Sarah Slavik (Buford, Ga.) – 6:53

Long Jump
1. Carissa Chambers (Johnson City, Tenn.) – 11’10”
2. Karson Woodie (Lenoir, N.C.) – 10’8”

Triple Jump
1. Carissa Chambers – 24’4”
2. Kelly Cawley (Johnson City, Tenn.) – 19’2½”

Pole Vault
1. Julia Parr – 8’6”
2. Heather Capps – 8’2”

Halvorson dominates women’s Scottish athletics at 63rd Grandfather Games

Aslynn Halvorson, 27, of Anderson, S.C., finished first overall in the women’s Scottish heavy athletics competition Friday, July 13, at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The Games took place July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Aslynn Halvorson has a patient landlord.

It’s not that she doesn’t pay her rent on time, but rather that certain items of Scottish origin find themselves stuck on the roof.

“I’ve gotten the sheaf stuck on my apartment roof,” said Halvorson, 27, of Anderson, S.C., referring to a 16-pound sack of hay one must loft over a 20-foot bar in Scottish heavy athletic competition. “My landlord laughed. She thinks it’s the coolest thing ever and was just like, ‘Really?’ So, I don’t practice sheaf toss at my apartment complex anymore.”

When it comes to practicing for Scottish heavy athletics, like the caber toss, hammer throw and weight toss, Halvorson said one practices wherever they can.

“Basically, give me a flat space and some time,” she said. “There is a middle school across the street from my apartment, and they chase me off occasionally because I put holes in the field. But literally, you find a patch of grass and hope nobody kicks you off for destroying it.”

The caber toss, where athletes flip a telephone pole-sized log end over end, is a little more difficult to facilitate.

“You almost can never practice caber, because where are you going to hold a tree?” Halvorson asked.

Yet practice — even lack thereof — paid off at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, where Halvorson finished first overall in women’s Scottish heavy athletics, placing first in four of six events on Friday, July 13.

Halvorson won the clachneart (16-pound stone thrown for distance), the 28- and 14-pound weights (also thrown for distance) and the 28-pound weight for height at 14’. She placed second in the 14-pound hammer throw and third in the caber toss.

Halvorson finished first overall in 2017’s Grandfather Games, as well. However, the 2018 outing is only her second time competing at Grandfather.

“This was my second win and my second time coming here,” she said. “I’m still very new to this, but I’ve had some awesome people around me who have really helped me grow very quickly, and there’s just some God-given talent. Part of it is that, and then just people willing to help me out.”

Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Halvorson attended undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she competed in track and field, focusing on the shot put, discus and hammer throw. In high school, she’d set a state high record for a discus throw by a female.

“I was a former track athlete at UT, and one of my friends, Jeremy Wallace, really got me interested after I finished my track career, so that was kind of how I got into this as something to do, and I fell in love with it,” she said.

Halvorson’s career teaching kinesiology — the study of the mechanics of body movements — at Anderson University also gives her unique insight into Scottish athletics.

“That’s the other fun thing about this, the biomechanics,” she said. “It’s just so different, and it really is fascinating. The training’s very different, because not only do you have to be explosive like in the (caber toss), but you need to have endurance for things like hammer throw, and you can’t just be strong or explosive or fast; you have to be all of them, so it’s absolutely fascinating.”

What Halvorson loves most about the sport, however, is the camaraderie.

“First and foremost, I absolutely love the people,” she said. “The camaraderie’s amazing, especially coming from a track-and-field background, where it was kind of like looking out for yourselves all the time. In (Scottish athletics), it’s much more relaxed and supportive.”

Halvorson particularly enjoys competing and spending time with her fellow top-finishers, Amanda Ford and Gwen Campbell.

Ford, 35, of Wilmington, N.C., finished second overall, while Campbell, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., came in third overall.

“I joke that my friend, Gwen, is my unicorn, because I see her at almost every games,” Halvorson said. “We talk almost every day about training and about life. And it’s a privilege when Amanda’s around, because always push each other.”

And it was no different at this outing, where Ford set a new field record in the 14-pound hammer throw with a distance of 98’5.5”, while also scoring perfectly in the caber toss.

“It was pretty amazing, because I love the hammer,” Ford said. “But this year was really tough. I knew Asylnn was going to come with a big game, and she sure did. We were tied all the way up to that last event (28-pound weight for height). She killed it, like always. It was good.”

Final Results

Clachneart
1. Aslynn Halvorson – 38’4”
2. Amanda Ford – 32’5.5”
3. Gwen Campbell – 28’6”

28-pound Weight Throw (distance)
1. Aslynn Halvorson – 43’6”
2. Amanda Ford – 34’8.5”
3. Gwen Campbell – 30’8.5”

28-pound Weight Throw (height)
1. Aslynn Halvorson – 14’ (second attempt)
2. Amanda Ford – 13’ (first attempt)
3. (tie) Gwen Campbell – 13’ (second attempt)
3. (tie) Heather McKenzie – 13’ (second attempt)

14-pound Weight Throw (distance)
1. Aslynn Halvorson – 81’8”
2. Amanda Ford – 66’2”
3. Gwen Campbell – 54’10.5”

14-pound Hammer
1. Amanda Ford – 98’5.5” (field record)
2. Aslynn Halvorson – 81’6”
3. Gwen Campbell – 71’6”

Caber Toss
1. Amanda Ford – 12:00
2. Gwen Campbell – 12:15, 12:30
3. Aslynn Halvorson – 12:15, 40°

The 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games took place July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. To learn more about the Highland Games, visit www.gmhg.org.

 The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.

Aslynn Halvorson turns the caber at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, which took place July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Asylnn Halvorson spins to throw the hammer weight at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Amanda Ford, 35, of Wilmington, N.C., prepares to turn the caber Friday, July 14, at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, N.C. Her turn resulted in a perfect score, and Ford placed second overall in the women’s competition. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Amanda Ford winds to throw the hammer at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Ford scored a new field record with a distance of 98’5.5”. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Amanda Ford placed second overall in July 13’s women’s Scottish heavy athletics competition at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Gwen Campbell, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., throws the hammer at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Gwen Campbell placed third overall in the women’s Scottish heavy athletics competition at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, held July 12-15 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Gwen Campbell prepares to turn the caber at the 63rd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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