LINVILLE — It’s a tale as old as time. Two Tennessee brothers compete in seven traditional Scottish athletic events on July 14, for the top spot in the 64th annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
The brothers have been competitive since middle school, and have been settling it on MacRae Meadows, the site of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, for years. Along with this year, Brent Miller claimed the title of Athlete of the Games in 2016, while brother Braidy Miller snagged it in 2017 and 2018.
Brent, 48, from Gordonsville, Tenn., finished in first place in four of the seven competitions: the clachneart (16-pound stone) toss for distance, with 44 feet, eight inches; the 42-pound weight throw for distance, 54 feet and ½ inches; the 28-pound weight throw for distance, 73 feet and 9 and ½ inches; and the 42-pound weight throw for height, 19 feet and four inches.
Brent finished second in the 16-pound hammer throw, 113 feet and 3 inches, and the caber toss, with a turn of 12:05.
Braidy, 50, from Lebanon, Tenn., won the caber toss, with two perfect 12:00 throws, and set a new world record for the age group of 50 to 54 with his 16-pound hammer throw of 123 feet and 11 inches.
Braidy placed second in the clachneart, with 40 feet and 3 inches; the 42-pound weight for distance, 48 feet and 11 and ½ inches; the 28-pound throw for distance, 69 feet and 7 inches; the 42-pound weight throw for height, 18 feet.
The brothers dominated every event they took part in, claiming the first and second spot. However, they choose to sit out on the last event, the sheaf toss, and still managed to prevail.
So, what keeps the brothers coming back to the games year after year?
“The setting is great, and they treat us really well,” Braidy said. “It’s one of the more realistic festivals in the U.S., and it’s closer to what I’ve heard Scotland festivals are like. Some of the guys that I know and threw with that have been to Scotland said that Grandfather Mountain is about the closest that you can get in the U.S.”
Brent and Braidy had their parents there to support them.
“It’s just a lot of fun!,” said Calvin Miller, the boys’ father. “I like following it.”
One commonality, no matter what the age group, be it the masters, pros and amateurs, is the bonded brotherhood formed through the competition of the games.
Randy McClure, who is an architect in Clarkesville, Ga., and placed third in the masters category, said, “Hanging out with the guys is the biggest part of it. You get to hang out with some friends you haven’t seen in a while, pick on each other and have a great time.”
Zack Riley, despite having heart failure the year before, claimed the coveted first-place spot for the pros. Riley, a neuroscience professor at Indiana University, said “hanging out with friends” is the best part, win or lose.
Wes Kiser, a high school math teacher in Gibsonville, who placed second in the pros, agreed with Riley.
“The more you compete, the more you end up throwing with a lot of the same people,” he said. “You really get to know all the people you throw with. And there’s way more trash talk than you could ever imagine, in any sport, because everybody’s friends.”
Jonathan Harding, second place in amateurs, from Austinville, Va., added, “It’s always fun competing against other people, when you see the same people all the time and everyone’s always really supportive.”
Besides the close friendships they form, Garrett Blatnick, first-place amateur, from Memphis, Tenn., said he particularly loved throwing at Grandfather Mountain because of the crowds.
“They were super interactive,” he said. “I do love competing here, and the crowds are great. I love when they sit up on the hill and when they’re into it. As we throw higher, the crowds get better. Its pretty exciting, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Larry Satchwell, an announcer for the games and a retired thrower, said, “I have never seen a crowd this big up here for all three days before. It’s been just beautiful weather. We had a great competition on Saturday and really good competitions with the masters today. This is just one of the premier games of the southeast.”
The 64th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games took place July 11-14 at Grandfather Mountain in Linville. For more information about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, visit www.gmhg.org.