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Articles by Melissa Krol

Competitors in the Highland Games put brawn in their brag

You can wear a kilt, dance a jig or play a bagpipe to show the Celt in you. Or you can throw a tree, caber in Celtic parlance. You simply pick it up by the small end and run with it, then flip it end over end.
    You’ll see all those gradations and more this Saturday at the 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games.
    “There is too much to see in one day because with all the 23 event stations there is always something going on,” says organizer Mary Beth Dent. “Our goal is to entice folks to come again so they can see more.”
    Over athletic expressions of Celtic spirit, near-octogenarian Malcolm Doying rules. Doying’s enduring love for Celtic Highland Games has made him a fixture of Celtic communities near and far.
    “At almost 80 he is still training younger people coming up, encouraging them and helping perpetuate the traditions of the Highland Games and passing it down to the next generation,” Dent says.
    Tossing and throwing are key skills in the traditional heptathalon of feats of strength called Highland Games. The things you toss are weighty, and you must toss them all.
    “A caber weighs between 80 and 140 pounds,” Doying says.
    Stones used in Throwing the Stone, an early form of shot put, weigh only 16 to 22 pounds. The stone increases to 42 to 56 pounds with an overhead pole for brawny athletes Throwing the Weight — using only one hand.
    Tossing the Sheaf places the stone within a twine-stuffed bag weighing 16 pounds.
    “Competitors are Tossing the Sheaf close to 30 feet over the pole,” Doying says.
    Tossing the Hammer, Doying’s favorite sport, demands swinging a 16- to 22-pound hammer three times overhead before throwing.
    Throwing all these mighty weights, Doying traveled up and down the East Coast and all the way to Scotland.
    “The biggest and best competition was in Scotland,” said Doying. “The World’s Master’s Championship Competition for 40 and older was like the Olympics with a parade of guys from all over the world.”
    To fit into her husband’s competitive schedule, wife Patricia Shema adopted his passion. Shema started competing in her 50s, promoting a women’s class in the games. Between them, the couple has earned five world championships.
    “It’s so much fun,” Doying says.
    Want to step up?
    Start by watching the events to see how they’re done.
    “If you’re a reasonable athlete you can do it,” Doying says — next year with training.
    Forty-five athletes compete in three flights in the first games of the Mid-Atlantic season, said to be the best on the East Coast. One man is flying in from Germany. Fifteen athletes are women.


The 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games, Saturday, April 29, 10am-6pm. $20 admission includes heavyweight athletic events to testify to Celtic martial prowess and pride; music, dancing and instruction; living history to illuminate the culture, storytellers and genealogy seminars to strengthen cultural links — plus food and drink — all at Jefferson Patterson Park in St. Leonard: www.cssm.org.