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Warrenton’s trio of Campbells compete in World Horseshoe Pitching Championships

Saturday, Jul. 30 | By Peter Brewington
Jimmy Campbell of Warrenton is competing this week at the World Horseshoe Pitching Championships in Montgomery, Ala. --Photos by Adam Goings
Dean Campbell packed his black “competition” loafers.

He also brought two sets of even more important “shoes.”

Campbell, 62, is the patriarch of a prominent local horseshoe pitching family competing the 2016 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships in Montgomery, Ala. His son, Jimmy, 43, and his son's wife, April, 41, joined Campbell at the event, which began July 25 and runs through Aug. 6.

It is the trio's first trip to “worlds” after they won several individual state titles in Virginia.

“We went to watch in 2014 to kind see what it was all about,” April Campbell of traveling to Buffalo, N.Y. “This year we submitted an application. It's closer to us in Alabama. We're excited about it.”

Billed as the world’s largest horseshoe tournament, it’s an international festival of pitchers with competition at all age levels.
Jimmy Campbell, carrying a ringer percentage of 55.61 percent, is one of three Virginians in the men's A2 division. His recent success has him on the cusp of being in the Top 20 of the world.

“I think I'm ready. I'm actually at a higher percentage then what I'm going in at,” said Campbell, who recently played with the world's No. 10 player.

His dad is competing in the men's E1 division. Dean Campbell throws a ringer at 36 percent, while April Campbell carries a ringer percentage of 44.14 into the women's D division.

Women throw from 30 feet and men from 40. Everyone in the 70-over category also throws from 30 meet.

All three Campbells compete in leagues on Tuesday in Winchester and also throw Thursday at an American Legion facility in Manassas. They also practice at the recently completed clay-filled horseshoe pit under the lights in Jimmy and April's yard on Bainbridge Lane in New Baltimore.

“It cost about $1,000. A lot of friends helped” build the pit, said Jimmy Campbell, who works as automotive paint technician.

The best horseshoe pitcher in the world, perhaps in the history of the sport, is 20-time world champion Alan Francis of Defiance, Ohio, who clicks ringers at the astonishing rate of 89 percent and will be in Alabama drawing crowds to watch his mastery.

The quest to throw a ringer makes the sport addicting. There are different throwing-grip styles and differences in the make of shoes. The weight cannot exceed 2 pounds, 10 ounces.

“You have to be consistent,” said April Campbell, who works for Raytheon as a contractor. “If one little thing is off, it can throw you off. You need to figure out what to do to get back in rhythm.”

She picked up the sport when she and Jimmy Campbell were dating.

“His dad, his brother, his nephews, his sister-in-law — they all throw,” she said. “It's a family thing.”

Like his dad, Jimmy Campbell attended Manassas Park High. He started pitching when he was young, gave it up for high school sports, but has rediscovered it again. Now the Campbells are taking it to the next level to see how they rate.

At the world championships, competitors pitch four or five games a day in one-on-one matchups before the final round. It cost $160 to enter.

“The whole class is a tossup,” said Dean, who works as a heavy equipment mechanic. “I’m going down there to enjoy myself and have fun.”

“I can't wait,” said Jimmy, who left with April on July 22. “This week is dragging on.”

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