Champions of the Highlands

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Article Published: Jul. 16, 2012 | Modified: Jul. 16, 2012
Champions of the Highlands

Michael Pockoski of Troutman took home the first-place title in heavyweight athletics at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Saturday in a battle that came down to the wire.

Photo by Skip Sickler



Each year, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games offers thousands of attendees the chance to celebrate their Scottish ancestry and heritage.

But the gathering also offers athletes a chance to prove their mettle through a variety of physical contests, including a marathon, track and field and heavyweight challenges.




Pockoski earns first in heavyweight athletics


Michael Pockoski of Troutman took home the first-place title in heavyweight athletics at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Saturday in a battle that came down to the wire.

Pockoski and Eric Frasure, last year's champion, were tied at 12 points apiece heading into the last event: the 56-pound-weight toss for height. After a tiebreaker between the two, Pockoski pulled out the win with a 14-13 advantage over the 2011 winner.

“Eric is a great contender,” Pockoski said. “This isn't the first time it's come down to the wire, and it won't be the last."

Pockoski, 34, began his career as a track and field athlete. While training for the Olympics, his coach had him cross-training with Scottish field events to better his traditional track and field abilities. He then developed a preference for such events.

"When you're doing track and field, you deal with travel and accommodations just to make two or three throws in one day," Pockoski said. "In the Highland Games, you spend the whole day competing. That's what I like."

Pockoski now enjoys competing on a regular basis, traveling to Scotland and all over the United States to compete. Many of his fellow competitors are his best friends, he said.


Scottish Athletic Event Results

56-Pound Weight Throw-for distance
1. Michael Pockoski, Troutman, N.C. — 43’ 1”
2. Eric Frasure, Charlotte, N.C. — 42’ 8”

Clachneart (tossing a 16-pound stone)
1. Eric Frasure — 46’ 6.5”
2. Michael Pockoski — 46’ 3.5”

Sheaf (tossing a 20-pound sack of hay for height with a pitch fork)
1. Eric Frasure — 30’
2. Mike Pockoski — 28’

Caber Toss (flipping a 20’, 120-pound telephone pole end over end)
1. Wes Kiser, Burlington, N.C. — 12:00
2. Gene Flynn, Kitty Hawk, N.C. — 11:45

22-Pound Hammer Throw
1. Michael Pockoski — 113’ 6”
2. Gene Flynn — 103’ 8”

28-Pound Weight Throw-for distance
1. Eric Frasure — 78’ 1.5”
2. Kerry Overfelt, Loratto, Ky. — 77' 11.5”

56-Pound Weight Toss- for height
1. Michael Pockoski — 17’ 6"
2. Eric Frasure — 17’ 6"
(Tie Breaker: Went back to 16'. Frasure took three tries, Pockoski took one try)

Overall Winner
1. Michael Pockoski



Harlfinger, Smith win track and field


Matt Harlfinger captured the title of Male Track and Field Athlete of the Games for the third year in a row, winning four of the 10 competitions.

The 27-year-old Atlanta native and track coach at Western Carolina University won the 100-yard, 220-yard and 440-yard races, plus the long jump.

The women's overall champion was 16-year-old Shannon Smith, a rising junior at Avery High School in Newland. Smith also competes in soccer, volleyball and basketball. Smith won the 100-yard, 220-yard, and 440-yard races, plus the long jump in the women's division.


Track & Field Results

100 Yard Dash – Men
1. Matt Harlfinger, Cullowhee, N.C. — 10.9 seconds
2. Christian Carswell, Morganton, N.C. — 11 seconds

100 Yard Dash - Women
1. Shannon Smith, Linville, N.C. — 13.28 seconds
2. Mary Chesnut Smith, Banner Elk, N.C. — 13.7 seconds

100 Yard Dash - Men's Masters
1. Russell Paige, Boone, N.C. — 12.91 seconds
2. Peter Clements, Plantation, Fla. — 14.46 seconds
2. Shawn Roberts, Boone, N.C. — 14.46 seconds

220 Yard Dash – Men
1. Matt Harlfinger — 29.34 seconds
2. Jason Bryant, Elkin, N.C. — 30.93 seconds

220 Yard Dash - Women
1. Shannon Smith — 31.1 seconds
2. Megan Gillespie, Dobson, N.C. — 32.17 seconds

440 Yard Dash - Men
1. Matt Harlfinger — 59 seconds
2. Marco Ricci, Charlotte, N.C. — 1 minute and .6 seconds

440 Yard Dash - Women
1. Shannon Smith — 1 minute and 13.9 seconds
2. Mary Chesnut Smith — 1 minute and 26.5 seconds

880 Yard Dash – Men
1. Jason Bryant — 2 minutes and 34 seconds
2. Aaron Hale, Raleigh, N.C. — 2 minutes and 53 seconds

880 Yard Dash - Women
1. Mary Chesnut Smith — 3 minutes and .4 seconds
2. Morgan Stephenson, Cary, N.C. — 3 minutes and 9.5 seconds

Mile Run – Men
1. Jason Bryant — 5 minutes and 28.2 seconds
2. Aaron Hale — 5 minutes and 36 seconds

Mile Run - Women
1. Mary Chesnut Smith — 6 minutes and 25.12 seconds
2. Megan Gillespie — 7 minutes and 54 seconds

2 Mile Run - Men
1. Jason Bryant — 11 minutes and 45 seconds
2. Lee Bradley, Charlotte, N.C. — 12 minutes and 13 seconds

2 Mile Run - Women
1. Mary Chesnut Smith — 14 minutes and 34.1 seconds
2. Morgan Stephenson — 16 minutes and 4 seconds

Long Jump – Men
1. Matt Harlfinger — 19’ 6 1/4"
2. Michael Wilson, Boone, N.C. — 19’ 3 1/2”

Long Jump - Women
1. Shannon Smith — 14' 4 1/2"
2. Meredith Wilson, Asheville, N.C. — 13' 10 1/2"

High Jump – Men
1. Christian Carswell — 6’ 3”
2. Michael Wilson — 6’

High Jump - Women
1. Meredith Wilson — 4' 6"
2. Debra Domermuth, Boone, N.C. — 4' 4"

Triple Jump- Men
1. Michael Wilson — 41' 7"
2. Matt Harlfinger — 40' 4"

Triple Jump - Women
1. Meredith Wilson — 29' 5"
2. Debra Domermuth — 28' 10"

Pole Vault - Men
1. Evan Webb, Salisbury, N.C. — 15' 2"
2. Austin Vegas, Kernersville, N.C. — 15' 1"

Pole Vault - Women
1. Debra Domermuth — 10' 6"
2. Colleen McLean, Durham, N.C. — 10'



First-time marathon participants dominate


Many of the top male and female finishers for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon were first-time competitors in the race. One of the few podium finishers to have won the race before was first-place winner Glen Mayes, a 41-year-old professor at the University of Kentucky.

This is Mayes' second time winning the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, and he finished with a time of 2:54.44.

"There were three or four nasty climbs toward the end of the race," Mayes said. "I was cramping pretty bad and just tried to keep my lead."

Second overall was Steve Cowie, 35, from Greensboro. Cowie finished the race with a time of 2:55.56. This was Cowie's fifth time competing in the marathon.

"I love the bagpipes," Cowie said. "The crowd and hearing the bagpipes at the end of the race is by far the best part."

Third place went to Brian Fowler from Dunn. This was Fowler's first attempt at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, but he has run marathons in Richmond, Va., Disney World and The Donna, a marathon devoted to breast cancer. Fowler, a 30-year-old running specialist, finished with a time of 2:58.59.

The men's record time still stands at 2:34:51 set by Michael Harrison in 1994.

Stacie Battjes of Winston-Salem won first place in the women's division. Battjes, 32, was ecstatic to win her first attempt at the grueling marathon. Battjes' time was 3:33.26.

"I felt like I had a lot of luck on my side today,” Battjes said. “My wedding anniversary is September 17, 9-17, and today was my ninth marathon, and my running number was 17.”

The second woman to finish was Erin McKee, 27, of Durham. This was McKee's first attempt at the Grandfather Marathon and her first marathon in six years. The law student at Wake Forest University trained for the race by running at Bass Lake in Blowing Rock and finished with a time of 3:24.46.

Finishing third was Emily Pulsifer, 37, from Swannanoa. Pulsifer, a librarian at Christ School in Arden, was also a first-time participant in this marathon. She finished with a time of 3:39.21 and said that all the great folks running near here provided her with cheerful motivation.

The female record for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon remains at 3:01:54, set by Patti Shephard in 1997.

A total of 390 runners from 28 states and Canada lined up for the 45th annual Grandfather Mountain Marathon Saturday, July 14. Runners began the race at Kidd Brewer Stadium on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, and then ran 26.2 grueling miles to the finish line in MacRae Meadows at Grandfather Mountain in Linville. The runners' ages ranged from 17 to 76.

For more information about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, visit http://www.gmhg.org or call (828) 733-1333.



Additional Images

Michael Pockoski of Troutman took home the first-place title in heavyweight athletics at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Saturday in a battle that came down to the wire.

Photo by Skip Sickler

Matt Harlfinger captured the title of Male Track and Field Athlete of the Games for the third year in a row, winning four of the 10 competitions.

Photo by Skip Sickler

The women's overall champion was 16-year-old Shannon Smith, a rising junior at Avery High School in Newland. Smith won the 100-yard, 220-yard, and 440-yard races, plus the long jump in the women's division.

Photo by Skip Sickler

Stacie Battjes of Winston-Salem won first place in the women's division with a time of 3:33.26.

Photo submitted

Glen Mayes, a 41-year-old professor at the University of Kentucky, took first at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon with a time of 2:54.44.

Photo submitted

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