Mineola resident Dan Dillon officiated over the 50th Annual Long Island Scottish Games held on August 28 at Old Westbury Gardens. Dillon, also a coach at Chaminade High School, talked about the rules of the events and how the champion is determined.
"It's more of an exhibition, it's not a full highland games," he said. "We do a stone, which is thrown like a shot put, we do a caber… and we'll also do a sheaf at the end of the day, which is a 16 lb sack that we throw over standards with a pitchfork."
These events are often referred to as "heavy games" for a reason. The caber is about a 15 foot long 90-100 pound pole that is thrown by the athletes. The object is to flip the caber around. Dillon says the caber is not judged by distance thrown, but by position. "Caber is a clock face. Perfect timing is 12 o'clock, straight away. Then after that, just like a clock face. If the Athletes doesn't turn the caber over, then it's by degrees, determined by a side judge."
So how does one prepare for the heavy games? "Training is predominately lower body, it's legs and back training," Dillon said. "It's a lot of squatting, a lot of pulling, and just getting out into the field and throwing."
The annual Scottish Games and Family Festival event is run by Scottish Clan McDuff, the last Scottish Clan on Long Island. They hold the games each year as a celebration of Scottish culture. The event offers much more then games, it features Scottish music, bagpipe bands, Scottish dance and food. The highlight however is the "Heavy" Scottish games themselves. "It was originated by the Highland Chiefs hundreds of years ago. Each Clan chief would choose a champion that would do their battles for them and the heavy events were part and parcel of their test. Who could throw the caber higher or straighter? Putting the stone was part of it," said publicity director Andrew McDicken.
This year there were three events held and three different champions in those events. Scott Thompson from Wantagh won first place in the stone putting event. He threw the stone 36 ½ feet in the contest, but his personal record is 40 feet. Thompson says he's been shot putting since high school and this is a way to keep up with the sport. His secret? "I have a stone at home. It's a 22 pound stone. It's basically shot putting, but with a larger heavier object. So I practice in my back yard, putting the stone."
Jeremy Vasquez from Huntington is this year's Long Island Scottish games champion. Vasquez won the caber toss event as well as the overall. "It feels great! they put on a great show here, the pro's are doing a great job. Everything runs real quick…It's a fun day," Vasquez said. "I did this event last year… I didn't do so well. I didn't even turn it ( the caber)." Vasquez credited his strong man power lifting and Olympic weight lifting training for helping him win this year. "The weight isn't that much of a factor, It's really the balancing and the technique," he said.
Jordan Guariglia from New Jersey has won overall champion the past few years running. This year he lost to Jeremy, but he was a good sportsman about it. "I'm feeling good," he said. "Last year I won overall champion, I would have been happy with that, but I got here three hours late, so this is just as good. Jeremy's really good so I'm glad he won best overall champion."