Throwing stones, all in good sport

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Andy Severns of Tidioute (second from left) won the amateur division with a 46 — and placed fourth in the professional division with a 40 — of the Pennsylvania Stone Skipping Championship on Saturday in Franklin. Pictured, from left, are: amateur division second place Dagan Bontrager of Pittsburgh (34 skips); Severns; and professional winners, second place Dave Ohmer, of Titusville (42, 38); champion Keisuke Hashimoto, of Oyama Tachigi, Japan (44); and third place (and world-record holder) Kurt Steiner, of Emporium (42, 36).

Andy Severns of Tidioute led the Warren County contingent in the Pennsylvania Stone Skipping Championships last weekend in Franklin.

Severns, participating for the first time, blew away the competition in the amateur field, firing a best stone of 46 skips.

First-time competitors must participate in the youth (for those under 13) or amateur ranks. To skip in the professional division, those competitors must have a best skip of 25 or better during competition.

Had Severns duplicated his amateur-winning toss during the professional round, he would have been state champion. As it was, he went home with a box of home-made fudge — the prize for placing in the top three of any of the three divisions.

Severns was one of 26 competitors in the pro division this year. They included world-record holder Kurt ‘Mountain Man’ Steiner, of Emporium, former national champion Mike ‘Airtight Alibi’ Williamson, defending Pennsylvania champion Drew ‘The Canadian’ Quayle, of Hamilton, Ontario, and past state champion Dave ‘Spiderman’ Ohmer, of Titusville.

There was a new name on the list this year — Keisuke Hashimoto, of Oyama Tochigi, Japan. Hashimoto is the defending world stone skimming (there is a difference — distance vs. number of skips) champion.

And there was one notable absence.

Franklin’s own, former world record holder and seven-time national champion Russ ‘Rock Bottom’ Byars died of esophageal cancer in October.

All 26 skippers in the professional division got together prior to the competition for a simultaneous skip in honor of Byars.

During the professional round, each competitor is called to the shore at the spot where French Creek meets the Allegheny River. There are three rounds of competition with each skipper casting two stones per round.

Alex Ferry, of Warren, held first place after a cast of 26 on his second stone. He held that spot until Severns had a 33 four spots later. Severns had the best throw until Ohmer, throwing 20th, had a 42.

In a normal year, 42 is a winning skip.

With his fourth stone, Ferry climbed back into contention with a 37 — good enough for second place at the time.

Warren County’s other participant, Brian Ferry, throwing 15th, had a 35 on his third stone — putting him in a third-place tie with Hashimoto (who held the tie-breaker).

Enzo Ferrari, of Baltimore, had a 38 on his third stone, bumping him to second place and pushing all of the Warren County contingent down a spot on the leader board.

On his last two stones of the day, Severns had a 39 and a 40, putting him in second place with easily the best tie-breaker stone.

He held on to second until there were only five stones left to be cast. On his last stone, Hashimoto had a 44. It was clearly the best stone of the day.

Two stones later, Steiner’s final stone was a 42 — knocking Severns off of the podium.

Severns finished fourth, Alex Ferry eighth, and Brian Ferry 10th.