From competing in middle school sports to hammer and discus throwing in college, the Miller brothers have always found themselves competing with each other.
And now, the two brothers, who are also physical education teachers, brought their decades-long competition to the 62nd annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games this weekend.
Braidy, from Lebanon, Tennessee, was out to dethrone the reigning Scottish Athlete of the Games, his brother, Brent, from Gordonsville, Tennessee. The brothers discovered the games eight years ago. They turned pro two years ago and began competing at the Highland Games.
Braidy bested his younger brother by coming in first with a 42-foot toss of a 56-pound weight in the hammer throw. Winning the sheaf toss and turning the caber helped seal his victory, but Brent did manage to snatch a record from his brother before the games were over.
Brent broke a world record for the 45-49 age class, previously held by his brother. Braidy held two records for two different styles of weight-tossing — one while the competitor is standing and one while he is spinning. Brent broke the record for the spinning style of weight tossing, but Braidy still holds the record for standing.
The brothers attend competitions all over the nation, but Braidy said the Grandfather Mountain games have their own special charm to them.
“From all the games we’ve been to, this is one that has just so much other stuff going on,” he said. “From the people I’ve talked to who have been to Scotland said it’s very similar to the large gatherings in Scotland. There’s all kinds of things going on here, which I think is cool.”
Veteran competitor Mike Nease finished his 20th Highland Games competition this weekend.
Nease said he started his professional career with a thirst for competition, but in recent years it’s been less about competition for him and more about the love of the sport. He drives to the competition from Parrotsville, Tennessee, and still does a few competitions per year and trains regularly.
“I love doing it,” he said. “As long as they keep inviting me back, I’ll still come.”
While the Highland Games take up a lot of space and time over the weekend, the competition is surrounded by the celebration of Scottish culture and heritage. Dancers and musicians competed alongside athletes throughout the weekend to round out a festival that has something for just about anybody.
The perimeter of the gaming field is surrounded with a rainbow of pavilions representing scores of clans. Event President Sandie Jones has been involved with the games for more than 40 years, and said this year drew the most clans to date.
Jones recalled how the physical footprint of the event has ballooned over the years to accommodate the growing number of clans that participate each year, which was around 100 this year.
“That’s really what this is all about,” Jones said. “It’s about the games, but it’s also one of the largest clan gatherings in the world.”
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