Highland Games Masters 2014

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom tossing the caber in Scotland!

Recently USAWA members Dave Glasgow, Chad Ullom, and Thom Van Vleck went to Inverness, Scotland to attend the Masters World Champs of Highland Games.  Unfortunately, Dean Ross was unable to attend.  Dean was the last person to have attended EVERY SINGLE MWC since it’s inception a dozen years ago.  Larry Traub was in attendance to watch and cheer us on.  Dave and Larry had brought their wives along….I was stuck rooming with Chad…..

The event was great fun and I’ve already talked about the Guinness caber toss record.  This was a three day event and it worked out where I could help Chad in the morning sessions when he threw and he could help me in the afternoon sessions.  I know for a fact Chad helped me out and I hope he found me helpful as well.  We would video each other throwing and assess mistakes and changes.

Chad Ullom between Wilbur Stam and Tommy DeBruijn....and Chad beat them both in the caber!

Chad was 4th in what I would call one of the toughest 40-44 age groups I’ve ever seen.  He had former champ Mike Dickens to deal with as well as 6′10″ Tommy DeBruijn.  Chad did extremely well against a field of some 20 throwers.  His best event was the caber toss where he was one of only three in his group to turn the caber.  He was in a dead tie going into the third and final attempt and ended up 2nd by a fraction.  I have to say in my opinion I thought he won it….but they didn’t let me judge!  It was that close.

I was in the 50-54 age group and I was dealing with two of the all time Scottish greats….Mark McDonald and Allister Gunn.  Both former pros and it was no contest with 18 throwers in my group about who would be in the top two.  Allister pulled out a close victory and the rest of use were really contending for 3rd.  I was very pleased to have my 2nd best finish ever with a 5th.  However, what really made my trip was winning the Weight Over Bar event for the 4th time at the World’s.   I really thought I had no chance at beating the two legendary Scots but it ended up being my day!  Chad was a big help spotting for me and keeping me focused.  I get deservedly kidded for focusing on this event but I love it and I won’t apologize for enjoying my win even if it’s just one event!

Thom Van Vleck winning the WOB event.

I know Dave was in a very tough group.  It was great to see him in Scotland with Larry.  Dave’s best events were the hammers where he placed 4th in both the light and heavy.  He was also 5th in the Heavy weight for distance.  Dave was in the 60-64 age group…..Which had THREE former or current World Champs in his group….by far the toughest in my opinion relative to the competition and age. I think Dave would be at the top had he not blown both quads a few years back.  I think he’s an amazing story recovering from that injury and coming back to throw well enough to contend for the podium.

Next year the World’s are slated for St. Louis, Missouri…back in the USA!  Looking forward to it all ready!

USAWA Members GO SCOTTISH!

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom and Thom Van Vleck at the 2012 Master's World Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.

Chad Ullom sets up "to pick" the Caber.

Recently, Chad Ullom and myself  traveled to Greenville, SouthCarolina to participate in the  2012 Master’s World Championships (MWC) of Scottish HighlandGames.  Most USAWA members know Chad for his lifting.  I knew Chad as a Highland  Games athlete long before his decorated USAWA lifting career.   As a matter of fact, I think I have competed with Chad in more competitions than any other athlete ever between our Highland Games exploits and USAWA meets!   Chad just turned 40 and has made a bit of a “comeback” to his Highland Games roots to compete in the the MWC.  In his first MWC he garnered a 4th place finish out of about 20 throwers in his class (40-44).  I placed 6th in my group (45-49) which also had about 20 competitors.  The overall competition had over 100 throwers!  So, as you can tell, this is a very competitive group.

Chad shows explosiveness and outstanding form as he drives the caber into the air.

First, a quick primer for those of you who don’t know what the Highland Games are.  There are 9 events that include Hammer Throwing, Weight for Distance throwing, stone putting (think “shot put”), and Weight Over Bar event, a sheaf toss, and the uniquely Scottish event, the Caber toss.  This event involves picking up a tree trunk, running with it, then attempting to flip it end over end.  You can win individual events, but the goal is the overall win which is much like the “total” in weightlifting.

Chad was in an extremely stacked class which was eventually won by Braidy Miller.  Braidy has held the NCAA record in the discus and I believe the indoor weight and was an All American in those events and National Champion.  He missed going to the 1992 Olympics by a fraction.  But Chad was able to pull the caber win out in a decisive manner.  As a matter of fact, only Braidy and Chad turned the caber at all and  both of Chad’s turns were superior to Braidy’s.  So, even though Braidy was victorious, Chad won the caber toss and to me, that is a special event to win due to it being the premier Scottish event!

..... and Chad seems to be trying to push the caber over from afar as he completes the winning caber toss at the 2012 Master's World Championship in Greenville, South Carolina. (Caber photos by Melanie Mullally)

I had hoped to win my 4th Weight Over Bar event at the World’s, but it was not to be.  Still, 2nd place in that event makes me proud and I was so close to winning!  But that will only make me work out even harder to get that title back next year!  I would also like to point out that two other JWC members who aren’t USAWA members went with me and won titles.  Jim Spalding won the under 200lb over 50 class and Bill Leffler won the 55-59 group.  So the JWC did well!

So, now you know me and Chad’s secret.  We put on skirts and toss telephone poles when we aren’t lifting in USAWA meets.  But we have several USAWA brothers and sisters that have that “other” passion as well such as Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, Dave Glasgow, Scott Campbell, just to name a few!   Chad and I are already making plans for next years MWC to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.