Highland Games put brawn on display at Sedgwick County Park

The pressure was on Wayne Kearns as he took his turn at the caber toss at Highland Games and Celtic Festival on Saturday.

"What's the pedigree on that one?" asked Dave Glasgow, the games' athletic director.

"This caber is 18 feet, 3 1/2 inches and 90 pounds," said Tom VanVleck of Kirksville, Mo., who was announcing the event.

Kearns, of Tulsa, was one of the top performers on the first day of the festival, which features Scottish music, dance, food and vendors, in addition to the sporting events.

Six professional athletes will compete for $2,300 in prize money when the games continue today at Sedgwick County Park.

Among them is Harrison Bailey III of Easton, Pa., who was judging the amateur caber toss competition.

While attending Lafayette College in Easton, Bailey played defensive end on the football team and threw the discus on the track team. He said his track coach introduced him to Highland gaming and he's been hooked ever since.

Now an assistant principal at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa., Bailey said he attends 18 to 21 events a year.

The caber toss is one of nine Scottish sporting events that is being featured this weekend, said festival director Richard Cathey.

Cathey said the caber competition can be traced to the needs of Scottish armies to quickly ford streams. Soldiers were trained to accurately toss a caber across a stream so fellow soldiers could cross it.

In the competition the idea is to lift the caber — with the heavy end on top — and toss it forward. The idea is to bounce the log once on the heavy end before it lands with the light end pointing directly away from the tosser.

After a perfect toss, the light end will be at the "12 o'clock" position and earn the tosser a score of 12. A toss that's slightly off might score an 11 or 1.

In Saturday's competition, Kearns and Duncan McCallum of Fort Worth, Texas, each scored 12s on preliminary tosses. McCallum scored an 11:55 on his final try. Kearns needed another perfect 12 to win the competition.

Kearns squatted, lifted the caber with his hands interlocked, then steadied it on his shoulders. After a short run, he launched it with the heavy end bouncing properly off the ground before the light end landed facing 2:45 on the clock.

McCallum was declared the winner.