Once again, the Sacramento Valley Highland Games drew a top field—Francis Brebner filed this report with IronMind.
2012 Sacramento Valley Highland Games
by Francis Brebner
The 2012 Woodland Highland Games held near Sacramento, California attracted more than a hundred athletes and several thousand spectators over the weekend of Games festivities. The Games were organized by the Scottish Heavy Events Association (SHA), which is headed by team members Jon Adams, Mike Qutermous, Tom Kincaid and top international judge Steve Conway.
These Games were a spectacular competition among all categorizers, with special emphases on the A group division and the Pro class. Despite a hamstring injury sustained at a previous Games, pro athlete Matt Vincent soldiered on, giving 110% to claim the overall pro competition.
The first event with the 22-lb. Braemar stone was very close between the top the athletes with Rusty Price taking the first win with a putt of 40’ 6-1/2”; in second place was M. Vincent with 40’ 2” and in third on countback also with 40’ 2” was Sean Betz.
The 16-lb. open stone was closely contested between the Vincent brothers, with Matt claiming the win with a putt of 53’ 2-1/2” and Andy Vincent in second place with 52’ 3-1/2”. Price took third with 49’ 5-1/2”.
In the 28-lb. weight for distance, M. Vincent notched up his second event win with a throw of 82’ 6”, but was pushed hard by Betz, who placed second with 81’ 2”; in third place was Greg Bell with 79’ 6-1/2”.
The 56-lb. weight-for-distance was a climactic scene all the way, ending in a third victory for M. Vincent by the slightest of margins at 43’ 11-1/2”, with Dan Williams just a half inch behind at 43’ 11” for second place. Betz was in third place with 42’ 2-1/4”.
Also a very tight event, the 16-lb. hammer was fought tooth and nail by the top three, with the win going to Betz with a throw of 126’ 9”. M. Vincent was in second place at 125’ 10” and Bell in third at 123’ 1/2”.
Betz captured his second win of the Games in the 22-lb. hammer with a throw of 109’ 1-1/2”, with Bell this time overtaking M. Vincent for second place with a throw of 104’ 11”, pushing M. Vincent into third place at 102’ 9”.
The 56-lb. weight-for-height was apex of the competition, with four athletes clearing 17’. The win eventually went to Williams, who used the spinning method, at a height of 18’. In second was A. Vincent, clearing 17’ 6” using the traditional standing style. In third was Chad Gustin at 17’, also standing, and M. Vincent also cleared 17’ but placed fourth on countback.
The caber is often the final event, as it was here, and the 18’ 6” long, 130-lb. implement proved very difficult to turn. With no tosses, the event was judged on the best degrees and it was won by A. Vincent at 85%. In second on countback was Williams, also with 85%; and in third M. Vincent with 80%.
Points (top three):
A special mention must be made about one of the faster rising stars in the A group, Jon O’Neil of Southern California. O’Neil is a very impressive athlete standing 6’ 9” and 290 lb. and that he is a gifted athlete there is no doubt. He has competed in two Olympic Trials and has won the prestigious U.S. Amateur Championships, held annually held at the Pleasanton Highland Games, which is also run by SHA in conjunction with the Games and Gathering host Caledonian Club of San Francisco.
O’Neil pulled out a great all-round performance with the following marks: 22-lb. Braemar stone 45’; 16-lb. open stone 50’ 1”; 28-lb. weight-for-distance 78’ 1”; 56-lb. weight-for-distance 40’ 5-1/2”; 16-lb. hammer 117’ 11”; 22-lb. hammer 99’ 6”.
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