CSA Logo

Desert Highlander

The Desert Highlander
Newsletter for

is now on-line

Click image to view

Newsletter Editor
Iain Lundy

Scots Hotline


Phone Booth

The Caledonian Society
of Arizona

P.O. Box 50092
Phoenix, AZ 85076

Public Relations
Don Finch


Scottish Games : Athletics

Scottish Games: Athletics
All of the competitors and crew in the Athletics area would like to offer our thanks to everyone who came out to support and cheer us on at the 2018 event. The weather couldn’t have been any better! The energy and enthusiasm that surrounded us was amazing!

With that in mind, the Caledonian Society of Arizona invites you to come back for our 55th Anniversary Phoenix Scottish Games on March 2nd & 3rd, 2019.

We plan to have 13 amateur classes men and women competing over 2 days. 

History of the Athletic Events

The tradition of the athletic competition goes back to the days when rival clans or kings would meet. Some believe competitions were organized to keep down the brawling and “street fighting”, to impress one’s rivals with displays of strength and skill and to gain honor and prestige. Others believe that they are the tests that were required of squires and other recruits before they were tested in battle.

The games came to America with the immigrants, but today the competition is between individuals and not clans. Many of the various athletic strength and skill requirements are the same as those that were required to successfully win a battle against a fortified position, whether it was a Roman night camp or a walled city.

In modern times, the weights became standardized and will vary depending on which class and event that the athlete competes in. Below is a description of the different events that you will see at our competition.

The events are broken down into six categories:.

Weight Over Bar

The objective is to toss the weight up and over a cross bar. The weight has a ring handle attached so that, using only one hand, the weight may be swung between the knees and tossed over the bar.

The weight may also be thrown using a spin technique if allowed by the Athletic Director. Three attempts are allowed at each height. If there are three misses at a height, the competitor is out of the competition.

Weight Over Bar
Weight Toss for Distance

A ring or D handle is attached to the weight by a chain for an overall length of 18”. The weight is thrown one-handed from behind a trig with a 9’ run-up allowed. Athletes are allowed three attempts. Any style may be used, with the most efficient being to spin like a discus thrower.

Weight for Distance
Hammer Throw

The original hammer used in Scotland was that used by the men in quarries mining granite. In America, initially it was the heavy, long-handled blacksmith’s hammer.

Today the hammerhead is round and made of metal. The handle is made of cane (or PVC pipe) with an overall length of 50”. This event inspired the Olympic hammer.

Hammer Throw
Braemar (Standing) Stone Put

The Braemar Stone Put has an ancient and easy to identify history. It was common practice for early Highland Chieftains to have a large stone outside their gatepost and challenges of strength and endurance were easily made to a visiting clan and its “heavy” warriors. There is also an open stone event that allows movement in the throwing area similar to the Olympic shot put.

Braemar Stone

The tossing of the caber (pole, rafter or tree) is probably the most famous of the Scottish athletic events. One of the most traditional - dating from the 16th century - it may have begun as a method to breach fortifications and barriers. It is definitely one of the most spectacular events - measuring strength, balance, timing and accuracy. The caber is thrown for accuracy as if the thrower is facing the 12:00 position on a clock face. The caber must pass through 90 degrees and fall away from the athlete to be considered a turn.



The sheaf is a burlap bag stuffed with rope, straw, or mulch. It is tossed over a cross bar with a pitch fork. Three and two tined forks are allowed for the competition. Three attempts are allowed at each height. If there are three misses at a height, the competitor is out of the competition.


History of the Women’s World Championships

The Phoenix Scottish Games, (formerly the Arizona Scottish Gathering and Highland Games), was the original host of the Women’s World Championship of Scottish Athletics, from its humble beginnings in February 1996 through March 2016. This event strives to include athletes from across the globe.
 WOnen's World Poster

Women in Arizona athletics started in 1992 and results were recorded by Rich Doria, a member of the Arizona Scottish Athletics Hall of Fame, a long time competitor, judge, athletic director and friend to the Highland games. There were three Female athletes competing alongside a group of novice men in a single group throwing together, taking turns between the women’s weights and the men’s. Genie Smith (Stanley) took over the job of athletic director in 1994, with five women competing. The women’s class grew to eight in 1995, resulting in the first splitting of the women’s group into an “A” top amateur class and a B/C class for less experienced athletes. In 1999, a Masters division was added for the women throwers. Genie was joined by her husband, Paul Smith, as co-chair for the games in 1996. 

Shannon Hartnett was one of those original women athletes and was a very active in many areas of sport, coming from a very successful bodybuilding and weightlifting background in California. Shannon was also an alternate for the 2002 US Olympic women’s bobsled team, attempted Mount Everest, played professional football, and competed in power lifting. She has been a pioneer and advocate for the expansion of women competing in the Highland Games throughout her career. Shannon’s efforts in the beginning of women participating at the Scottish Games helped to grow the events and championships to what they have become today.

The Women’s World Championship of Scottish Athletics (the official title) began in 1996. It was held at Mesa Community College at the corner of Dobson Road and Southern Avenue and the event would then take off as a “place to be” for athletes and spectators of strength and throwing events. Genie and Paul Smith were the athletic directors of the event and would lead the athletics competitions until 2003. This earned them a spot in the Athletics Hall of Fame for all of their hard work and innovation that they brought to the sport and the event. 

Ryan Seckman became the Athletic Director from Feb 2004 through March 2014 and, in 2006, turned the event from an open competition to an invitational for the top ranked throwers in the world. Michelle Crownhart accepted the role of Athletic Director in May 2014. The Games now have a minimum of 13 classes for men and women and expect to host over 120 athletes for 2018.

Since its inception in 1996, there have been only six champions. Shannon Hartnett of California from 1996 through 2005, Mindy Pockoski of Connecticut in 2006, Summer Pierson of California in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Danielle Curry of South Carolina in 2014, Adriane Wilson (Blewitt) of South Carolina in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, and the current World Champion 2016, Elissa Hapner of Illinois.  

The Caledonian Society of Arizona is excited to announce that the 2018 23rd Women’s World Championship is moving and will be hosted at ScotFest in Tulsa, Oklahoma from September 14 - 16.

Although we are saddened to not be the exclusive host to this event, this move will expand the exposure of the Elite/Professional Women in the Highland Games!

Spectators that have been unable to attend in Phoenix will now get the opportunity to see the best in the world compete for this title.

Congratulations to the ladies for this giant move forward! We wish you luck and hope to see you back in Phoenix gracing our field with your athleticism.

As the Caledonian Society prepares for our 55th Anniversary of the Phoenix Scottish Games in 2019, we look forward to having you watch and support our athletes compete over the two days of competition.

We wish to thank all of the sponsors that help to make these games great for the athletes, as well as all of the spectators that come out to cheer us on! Please be sure to support them, as they support us, throughout the year.  

You can see them scrolling on the top right side of this page.

Please Support Our Sponsors
 © Copyright 2009-2018 - The Caledonian Society of Arizona