ST. GEORGE – Horseshoe pitchers descended on the Dixie Center St. George this week to compete in the “World Horseshoe Pitching Championship.” Apart from the United States, there are also athletes from Germany, Canada, South Africa and Norway.
After the Opening Ceremony the athletes participated in a “throwback” day, wearing all white to honor the legendary horseshoe pitchers from the early days of the sport. On Friday serious competition began for the participants.
The youth were separated into two groups, cadet (ages 11 and under) and junior (ages 12-18). The number of entrants set a record as 117 boys and girls competed in a round-robin format.
“This is the most participation that we have had in the junior divisions,” event coordinator David Sidles, from Omaha, Nebraska, said. “Normally we have anywhere from 60-80 entrants in the junior classes.”
The cadets were separated into six groups. Four of the group winners finished the round robin unscathed. Another group saw two local favorites, Kaleb Jake and Coulson Ohms, tie for the top spot. They had to have a playoff to determine the group winner with Jake coming out on top, winning the playoff 24-19.
Jake, who has been pitching for two years, was introduced to the sport through his older brother Braidin. Ohms, whose grandfather will be inducted into the Horseshoe Pitching Hall of Fame later this week, enjoys the competition.
“It is a family tradition,” Ohms said. “I have been pitching for five years. My whole family participates.”
Joining Ohms this year in the competition are brother Quinn (who is ranked nationally in the junior competition) and sisters Adilaide and Ellyn.
The Juniors were divided into six groups. Four group winners went undefeated. Group A, which included last year’s cadet national champion Cale Maatlock, needed a playoff between Gunnar David of Marshfield, Wisconsin, and Dayton Campbell of Richmond, Virginia, to determine the group winner. Campbell prevailed to take the top honor.
“Pitching does not require any sort of strategy against the opponent. You just pitch as well as you can,” Campbell said when asked about his strategy going into the playoff. “If I am playing against good competition, I am admiring their play. I enjoy getting to know the other competitors.”
David agreed that concentrating on your own individual game was key to doing well in tournaments.
“When you go against good competition, you try to cover their scores. I don’t play well from behind. It increases pressure on my throws,” David said.
“The Juniors and Cadets had their round-robin groups today,” said Sidles. “The round-robin champions will get trophies. Tomorrow (Saturday) the tournaments begin. Those winners will get bigger trophies, cash awards and world titles.”
The other divisions ramping up competitively are the elder, men’s and women’s divisions.
In the men’s competition, Alan Francis from Defiance, Ohio, will be vying for his 22nd world title. Since 1989, Francis has won 21 of the last 28, including 19 of the last 22 titles. He has gone undefeated in the tournament the last five years with a record of 75-0.
“Alan Francis is in a class by himself,” said Sidles. “He is a phenomenon. His main competition will be Gary Bear Paw from Oklahoma and Dan Watson from Alabama. But realistically Francis should have very little trouble getting his 22nd championship. If people want to see great pitching by arguably the greatest pitcher, he will be here at the Dixie Center next week.”
The competition, which is open to spectators, began Monday and continues through July 29, when world championship final rounds will begin at 10 a.m.
Saturday’s competition will include pitching in men’s, women’s, cadet and junior classes. The top men’s division will begin competition on Monday. See the full pitching schedule here.
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- St. George Area Sports Commission
- St. George and Zion Area Tourism
- World Horseshoe Championship – with activities and schedule
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