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Updated: Sep 23, 2020

By Michael Mancuso | For

Rather than dampening spirits, a soggy, chilly fall morning only seemed to infuse the modern-day warriors with the strong-willed spirit of their historical predecessors. They planted their feet firmly, hips width apart, and lifted with two hands a Scottish hammer -  a 4-foot shaft and weighted ball. Then they swung it around their bodies several times with precision, increasing the speed before letting go and sending the metal to the heavens above. Well, maybe not that far. This was going down at the Highland Games at Kilt Fest NJ 2018 this past weekend on the grounds of Liberty Lake Campground in Bordentown Township. The event  - "a gathering of Scottish and Irish, Celts and Gaels to celebrate our culture" - featured music, food, vendors, a Kilt Run, performances and of course, the Highland Games.

Al Yodakis, of Colts Neck, served as the athletic director of the games. He was inspired to compete after attending his first Highland Games as a spectator 2 years ago.

"I saw guys in kilts throwing heavy things and then having a beer afterwards. I said this is my version of heaven. How do I do this? And I've been doing it ever sinc

Unlike centuries ago, modern day Highland Games include female competitors.

Nikita Marzano, above, who came from Wilmington, Delaware to compete, says she did track and field in college and got into the games five years ago or fun.

"And I just love it now."

Veteran competitor Amy Dollard, right, brought her 11-year-old daughter Chloe for her first taste of the sport, dutifully video recording her swings and offering words of encouragement.

The technique is the thing, requiring the use of patience, balance, gravity, velocity, and the body’s own explosive power.

Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook


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