In a stunning upset, Wichita, Kansas resident Grant Mitchell walked away with the Pennsylvania State Title Saturday at Riverfront Park. A medical student at Penn University, Mitchell himself was stunned to have taken the trophy away from long-time winner Russ Byars. “I had been wanting to compete in this tournament for awhile,” Mitchell said. “I had just arrived in Philadelphia late in the week to get ready for fall classes, and I had partied quite late Friday night. I woke up at 9:30 Saturday morning and knew I had to make a choice: roll over and go back to sleep, or hop in the car and drive as fast as I can to make the cross-state trip to Franklin in time to do the tournament.” Mitchell arrived just 5 minutes before the start of the pro competition and just barely made the registration deadline. During the course of the 6-round competition, his single-digit skips impressed no one. He had been written off as some hotshot who had no business skipping with the big dogs. But on his 6th and final skip, Mitchell fired off a stunning 42-skip throw that had the crowd of several hundred fans gasping in disbelief. Click here for 2009 River Rock Festival Photo Gallery.
Prior to Mitchell’s final toss, Russ Byars himself had nearly clinched the title with a solid 39, thought by many to be untouchable. But Scotsman Allistair Cooper, having flown in from California and skipping in his now-trademark kilt, was nipping at Byars’ heels with a respectable 38. Conditions for the 2009 event were somewhat challenging, as record-high river levels made it impossible for the competitors to skip at water level. Instead, they were forced to throw from higher up on the grassy bank, which was slick from mud created by several days of hard rain. Click here for official results.
Event organizers knew 2009 would prove to be a hotly-contested tournament, as ESPN and CBS News film crews were present to cover the story. A sizable contingent from the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping & Gerplunking Club, the sanctioning body for stone skipping, was on-hand, with two competitors of their own. Eric Steiner, “The Voice” of Mackinac stone skipping, provided color commentary for this year’s Franklin event. CBS’ own Bill Geist competed as a celebrity pro skipper.
The Rock In River Festival is the newest Franklin festival, overlooking the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny River. This festival includes kids games, rock decorating contest, chicken barbecue, boat rides, live music featuring the Ryver Nymphs, and the fun of watching amateurs and professionals (including reigning World Champion and Guinness World Record holder Russ Byars, and former Guinness World Record Holder Kurt Steiner) compete for the state championship of skipping stones across the water. Registration for competition begins at 11:00. Click here for directions to Riverfront Park.
Our competition is sanctioned by the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club, who operate the nationals in Michigan each July 4. The Pennsylvania winner is entitled to compete in the prestigious “Pro Category” at Mackinac the following Independence Day. A very elite group of professionals from around the world gather on Windermere Beach, a stone-covered beach on Lake Michigan beside ferry boat docks which connect Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City on the mainland.
Officiating the PA Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament is High Commissioner Brian Barnett of Franklin and his team of judges. Contestants are asked to submit a small donation ($3 a person amateur, 12 and under $1, pros $10), and although the event is a “bring your own stones” tournament, exotic skipping stones from various parts of western Pennsylvania are usually available for contestants for an additional small donation.
Courtesy – of Pennsylvania Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament