Aurora University trainer offers feats of strength at Highland Games
By Jasmine Young For The Beacon-News May 31, 2012 7:04PM
Aurora University’s head athletic trainer Terry Smith, 41, is co-chairman of the heavy athletics competitions in the 26th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games on June 15. | Submitted
At A Glance
What: The 26th annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 15 — Highland dance competition, Heavy Athletics Friday Night Fling celebration of traditional and contemporary Celtic music from 7 to 10 p.m. on the Celtic rock stage; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 16 — Champion supreme piping and drumming competition, Heavy Athletics U.S. Open Championship, Highland dance competition, youth soccer tournament, Dogs of Scotland presentations, genealogy and cultural exhibits, children’s activities
Where: Hamilton Lakes, Itasca, at I-290 and Thorndale Avenue
Cost: Friday — children 12 and younger admitted free; adults $12; Saturday — children ages 3 to 12 $5; adults $20; patron weekend pass —$75. This two-day pass includes entry into the festival, premiere seating inside the patron tent, complimentary food and beverages, and a private access VIP Parking Pass.
Parking: $5 per vehicle each day, or a two-day parking pass is $8.
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:13AM
The 2012 Olympic Games aren’t the only competition going on this summer. Closer to home, the 26th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games will take place June 15 in Itasca.
And for the third year, Aurora University’s head athletic trainer will be there as co-chairman of the heavy athletics competitions.
During the past 15 years, Terry Smith, 41, said he has competed in about 150 Scottish heavy athletic competitions. He became interested in heavy athletics after wrestling and power lifting in college.
“I have always been a fan of strength athletics,” Smith said. “After I (competed) the first time, I had a blast doing it, and it became my hobby.”
In addition to the strength training, Smith also was attracted to the rich culture and history behind the Scottish games.
“The culture had rites of passage involving feats of strength and feats of athleticism for war training and early competition,” Smith said. “These activities have been going on for hundreds of years … and to me that is fascinating.”
Heavy athletic competitions are performed in kilts and contain events such as the Scottish hammer toss, heavy stone and weight throws for distance, as well as the focal event of the games, the caber toss. The caber — a 20-foot-long, 175-pound telephone pole — must be flipped away from the “tosser” as far as possible. The further and more accurate the caber is thrown, the better.
The caber toss also happens to be Smith’s favorite activity in the competition, and according to him, it is the most defining event of heavy athletics.
“I enjoy doing the caber toss the most because it is the most unusual, and it sets the competitions apart and makes (the games) what it is,” Smith said.
Although a great amount of strength is necessary to compete in the games, Smith says that sheer strength alone will not make one successful — strong athletic skills are also needed.
“People may not appreciate how difficult, strategic and athletic the guys are,” Smith said. “It’s not just about strength. There is so much more.”
In addition to his work in heavy athletics, Smith also participates in Strongman and powerlifting competitions. At 5-feet-11 inches, and 295 pounds, these events take a toll on his body, but Smith said that staying healthy is still possible.
“It is like any other physical activity,” Smith said. “It is very tough on the body, but the main thing is you have to train in order to keep doing it. You have to consistently train and prepare yourself.”
For anyone interested in becoming a heavy athletics competitor, Smith has a few tips.
“The best thing to do is to find a local competitor and go out and practice with them,” Smith said. “Then after that, it’s trying to find the games who will allow new competitors, and there are a few of those around.”
Although Smith decided not to compete in the games this year, he said the competition will be entertaining. Also, the Midwest will be bringing in top competitors from Wisconsin and Indiana, Smith said.
“Every year, the games have had great success in bringing in talented people,” Smith said. “We’re going to have a defending world champ, a defending runner-up, and guys who can compete in any competition in the world.”
Smith invites everyone who can, to experience the Highland Games this summer.
“It’s a very enjoyable thing to watch,” Smith said. “It’s a very unique part of culture. This year will be a great show.”