Caber Toss:  A long tapered pine pole or log is raised to an upright position and the competitor balances it vertically holding the smaller end in their hands.  Cabers vary from 16 – 22 feet (may go down to 12 feet in women’s classes) and weighs 60–180 pounds.  Then the competitor runs forward attempting to toss it in such a way that it turns end over end with the upper, larger end striking the ground first.  The smaller end that was originally held by the athlete then hits the ground.  The official judges the caber toss based upon how closely the competitors approximate the ideal 12 o’clock position, which is a perfect throw.

Weight for Height:  In this event the athletes attempt to toss a 56-pound stone with an attached handle over a horizontal bar using only one hand.  Athletes are allowed 3 attempts at each height.  Clearing the designated height allows the athlete to advance into the next round at a greater height  The competition is determined by the highest successful toss with the fewest misses being used to break tie scores.

Sheaf Toss:  This event uses a bundle of straw, the sheaf, (weighing 20 lbs. for men; 10 lbs. for women) wrapped in a burlap bag.  The sheaf is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar much like that used in pole vaulting.  The progression of heights and scoring is similar to the Weight for Height.  

Hammer Throw:  This is not the Olympic hammer on a cable.  It is more like the Scottish hammer.  In this Scottish event, a round metal ball (16-22 lbs. for men; 12-16 lbs. for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4 feet in length and is made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic.  In this event the athlete doesn’t spin, but grips the stick and uses his/her shoulders to spin the hammer around over the head and is thrown for distance.  Many athletes use spiked footwear to help dig into the turf to maintain their balance while spinning the hammer which helps increase the distance the hammer is thrown.

2015 Games--Interview with Nathan Hitchcock, Sioux Falls, SD

Highland games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland, other countries as well as the United States as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and, especially that of the Scottish Highlands.  Certain aspects of the games are so well known as to have become emblematic of Scotland, such as the bagpipes, the kilt, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss.  While centered on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment, food, and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.  Many of the competitors in Scottish Highland Games today are former high school and college track and field athletes who find the Games are a good way to continue the competitive careers.  Although a range of events can be a part of the Highland athletics competition, a few have become standard. 

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2014 Highland Games Highlights

Weight for Distance:  There are two separate events consisting of light (28 lbs. for men, 14 lbs. for women) and heavy weight (56 lbs. for men, 42 lbs. for women) for each athlete.  The weights are made of metal and have a handle attached either directly or by means of a chain.  The throwing area is like the stone put 4 ½ by 9 feet with the toeboard, or trig, on the front of the area.  The object of this event is to throw the weight as far as possible using a spinning technique.  The longest throw wins..

Stone Put:  There are two types of stone put:  the “open stone” (weighing 16-22 lbs for men, 8-12 lbs. for women.) in which the athlete is allowed to move through a 4 ½ by 7 ½ foot area and must not go past the trig (a block of wood).  The other is the “Braemar Stone” (weighing 20-26 lbs. for men, 13-18 lbs. for women) in which the athlete is not allowed to move across the area or run up to the toeboard or “trig” to throw the stone: this is just brute strength.  The word “put” means to thrust.  The thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release.  Most throwers use either the “glide” or “spin” techniques..