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Horseshoes Is So Much More Than A Game Meet The Family Of Vermont Champions
photo providedDebra Brown holds her second place trophy from the 2012 World Championships in hosreshoe pitching. The family will once again be at the World Championships this week in Utah looking to have fun and win more title for Vermont.
photo providedBristol Teen Brianna McCormick pitching horseshoes at the 2012 World Championships where she won her world title.
photo providedBrianna McCormick with her 2012 Junior Girls World Championship trophy.
Tuesday July 23, 2013
By Cookie Steponaitis
Debra Brown has been competitive in the world of championship horseshoes since the fall of 1981. She didn’t start out with any aspirations of being a world champion because at first it was just a game. “Actually, my husband Michael played the game first,” she shared. “I would just go and watch but then I decided it was not a spectator sport so I joined in.” While Brown honestly admits at first horse shoes did not come easily to her and that at first she only averaged about 6.5 finger percent at her first tournament, she got a fever for it and decided she wanted to pitch like a champion. The rest is history and the beginning of a family affair that has earned many championships, including some world championships.
“This is truly a family sport,” shared Debra Brown. “My two sisters Georgia McCormick and Brenda Preston play and our brother Brian McCormick also play. We all root for each other. Sometimes you are playing against your own family members but you have to remember that it is just a game. We have three members of our club that have won the world championships. Brian Simmons had been the Mens’ Champion. Nick Preston, my nephew has been the Junior Boys’ Champion and Brianna McCormick, my niece is currently the Junior Girl Champion. That says a lot for a little club from Vermont that doesn’t get the best weather.” From one little club, indeed! The championships mentioned by Brown are actually world championships and in the sport of horse shoeing, the names Brown, McCormick, Preston and Vermont are all equated with championships and hard work.
“Most people have to practice a great deal to become a good horse shoe player,” reflected Brown. “To prepare for a competition you have to practice and stay focused.” So tight is the family unit that several times a year they find themselves competing against each other at high level events. They simply compete as a family unit while attending the World Championships moving to the event of the other family members and become spectators and cheerleaders. “One of the families a favorite tournament is over Labor Day Weekend,” commented Debra. “This is called the New England’s and the whole family spends three days there. This tournament is usually held in Keene, New Hampshire. There are about 340 pitchers that weekend and a great time is had by all. There are three of our members who hold the New England Champ status at this time. Brian Simmons is the Men’s Champion. I am the Womens’ Champion, and Brianna McCormick is the Junior Girl Champion. I would say the toughest phase of the competition is to stay focused and try to retain your title. When we play each other we usually know who will win the competition. There is much more to this game than just winning. It is about being the best you can on a given day. The thing that keeps us coming back to this sport is all the wonderful people we meet along the way.”
Niece Brianna McCormick started in the family horse shoeing when she was six. At age nine she began competitive pitching and remembers always throwing shoes around at family gatherings. Not one to rest on her accomplishments Brianna will throw about 200 shoes every in preparation for a tournament.” In order to pitch my average of above in a tournament, I really have to practice,” shared the World Champion. “It’s not a case where you can just show up and expect to pitch well. Like any other sport, the only way to be good is to practice.” When Brianna won the Vermont 9 and New England’s in 2005 it was apparent that another member of the Bristol clan was on their way to worlds. “I have been the Vermont State Junior Girls Champion for the past seven years,” shared Brianna. “In 2009 I placed third at the Junior Girls World Championship. In 2010 and 2011 I placed second and last year I won the Junior Girls World Champion.”
Brown and her family play for a club called Sodbuster which has been in existence since 1966. It was founded by Roger and Bev Forgues who still pitch themselves. The group has dedicated new courts in Bristol and scholarships are given to junior members if they play in sanction leagues, and maintain a B average. Horse shoes for Brown and McCormick is a competitive sport that blends two of their favorite things, family and games. While the world competitions use computer scoring and allow them to pitch inside with air conditioning many nights are still spent outdoors with the family practicing for the next event championship. “I think the thing that keeps this game fun for all of us is the time spent with family, and doing something that we all enjoy to the fullest,” concluded Brown. “There are not many sports you can play that have such an age difference. You can be ten or eighty to play this sport.” The Valley Voice salutes not only Deb but niece Brianna who will travel next week to St. George, Utah where she will attempt to defend her Junior Girls’ World Champion medal. Deb and the rest of the family will be there to compete and cheer. “I feel this sport has given Brianna a lot of self- confidence and she is just an all around fine young lady,” shared Deb. “We will also be going to Utah on Wednesday of that week to compete as well. I have had a lot of good matches but the best is yet to come. Winning a world title would be my highlight. That is what I am working for.”
Brianna is hoping to bring home another trophy to the Green Mountain State as well as stimulate some new interest in kids about pitching horse shoes. “It is all about meeting new people and making new friendships that keeps it fun for me,” concluded Brianna. “I like how no matter where you go to pitch, everyone is like one big happy family.”
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