ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It was a nail-biter but, in the end, Antigonish’s Matt Doherty was able to capture his fifth Canadian Scottish Athletics Federation (CSAF) Championship, during the Antigonish Highland Games, July 7 and 8.
The championships became a three-way battle between Doherty and rivals Jason Johnston of Saskatoon and Rob Young of Calgary, played over the course of two-days.
“It was a fantastic event; we had, easily, what I would call the closest three-way competition for the national championship, probably since its inception,” an exhausted Doherty said late on Sunday afternoon, with his title finally secured.
“Day one, myself, Rob and Jason were basically first, second and third, just bouncing back and forth.”
“Rob was tied with me, for first place, going into the weight over bar, and he had a bit of a rough time; I think he placed fifth, because he had a couple of misses, so that pushed him down.”
Doherty noted that meant he finish day one in first place, two-and-a-half points ahead of Young with Johnston right on their heels, only three points out.
“I won the first two events, so I was in really good shape,” he said. “Jason was second in both those events and Rob was third in both, so they changed places.”
Doherty said he was very confident with his lead now a “healthy” five points and the final event being one of his best; the light hammer.
“I wasn’t that concerned but I went in and I was one of the last guys in the order and the ground was really chewed up, so I actually fouled my first two attempts,” he said, noting the intensity suddenly ramped up at that point.
“So now I’m staring down a do-or-die third attempt to save the competition; that was about as stressful as I could have made it for myself.”
Doherty said the thought of things like field records and “putting on a good show” disappears at that point with a focus now on just having a good, solid throw.
“So today was just about getting the job done. I was able to save it; I think I placed fourth and, first to fourth in the light hammer, was less than two feet,” he said.
“So not much margin for error but, in my case, because I went in with a five-point lead, that meant Jason had to beat me by not a full five places, he actually had to beat me by a full six places. Five would have tied us and the way it works is, if you’re tied, which Jason and I have done, at the end of a national championship, you count back to first-place finishes. Since he won the event, I had to place well but not that well.”
With five titles on his resume now, Doherty said he would like to “stick around” for a shot at a few more.
“I’ve been kind of getting hurt here and there in recent years but, having said that, I’m only 33 and the average of competitors at this event was, probably, 40,” he said. “We have a bunch of guys who are masters’ age which means they’re 40 or over. We’re looking forward to getting that next generation of guys in, throwing and working hard.”
Along with being one of the top competitors in the field, and best again this year as it turned out, Doherty is the committee chair for the heavy event and said it was an “excellent” two days.
“We had our juniors coming out and throwing on Saturday and the highlight for that was probably Angus Kennedy, who was taking shots at 18 feet … that was excellent to see,” he said of the local competitor.
“And then there was Mairinn Kennedy, 13-years-old, in her first Games ever, so that was great to see too,” he said of another local athlete.