ST. GEORGE – There’s going to be a lot of horseshoe pitching going on in St. George the next two weeks and it ain’t no picnic.
Horseshoes, arguably America’s favorite backyard or picnic activity, will be taken a little more seriously today through Aug. 3 at the Dixie Convention Center when about 1,500 of the nation’s best compete at the 2013 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships.
This year’s World Championships, sponsored by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, will feature eight divisions competing indoors at the Dixie Center, with 48 portable horseshoe courts set up in the arena. World champs will be crowned in the Open Men, Open Women, Senior Men, Senior Women, Elder (short-distance) Men, Junior Boys, Junior Girls and Junior Cadets (12-years old and under) divisions.
All games will be recorded on an electronic scoring system.
Entrants hail from 46 states, plus four Canadian provinces, the countries of Norway and South Africa and for the first time ever, six competitors will be representing Namibia.
Current men’s world champion Alan Francis of Defiance, Ohio, who is listed in the 2011 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for most world horseshoe pitching championships (15), now has 17 titles under his belt and once again will be attempting to break his own record for most World Championships. Alan currently holds an 88.09 percent overall average.
No. 2-ranked Brian Simmons, from Vermont, has a ringer average of 84.4 percent and will be battling Francis for the title, along with PBA great Walter Ray Williams, Jr., from Florida. Simmons has three World Championships to his name, while Walter Ray holds six men’s titles and has finished as high as second in the world, pitching with his off hand.
Also making an attempt for the gold will be Ohio’s Jim Walters, who is currently ranked fifth on the top 100 list with a 78.55 average and sixth-ranked Dan Watson, who is at 77.13 percent.
In the women’s division, defending champion Joan Elmore, from Tennessee, heads the lineup with an average ringer percentage of 84.98. She will be competing against four of the top 10 ranked women in the country, including seven-time World Champion Sue Snyder, from Indiana, who is currently ranked second, as well as Vermont’s Debra Brown, Pennsylvania’s Cindy Hoffman, Tennessee’s Marlene Ray and Sharon Chiddister, also from Indiana.
This year’s Elder division also has a high-percentage lineup with the entire top-qualifying preliminary class carrying ringer percentages of 70 or higher. Three of these contenders hold at least one Elder World Championship and are hungry for more (Russ Phillips, Wash., Herschel Walters, Ind., and Rich Pintor, Colo.
Defending boys champion Dalton Rakestraw, from Illinois, as well as Vermont’s Brianna McCormick, who won the girls title in 2012. Missouri’s Ryan Schepers will also be battling to retain his Cadet crown. The Juniors begin competition, Thursday with championship play at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Competition will begin by 7 a.m. each morning through the preliminary rounds, with a break for NHPA convention and Hall of Fame banquet on Sunday, then will resume at 7 a.m. next Monday.
Championship rounds begin Aug. 1. Admission is free and concessions and souvenirs will be available.
To follow the event online or to learn more about the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, visit www.horseshoepitching.com or contact NHPA 2nd Vice President, Tina Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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