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Marbles championship is not just for kids anymore

August 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

MIDDLETOWN, Md. - Whoever said shooting marbles is a kid's game likely never attended a championship tournament and saw players focusing on each shot like a golf professional or a pool shark.

Over the weekend at the U.S. Marbles Championship in Middletown, it was the older players foiling a Hagerstown teen's attempt to repeat as marbles' lord of the ring.

About 26 players vied for the U.S. Marbles Championship crown Saturday and Sunday at Middletown Park. By Sunday, only eight remained in the Ringmaster-style marbles competition.

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The final match came down to Ralphie Dillion, 20, and Jeff Kimmell, 35, the tournament's director.

Kimmell beat Dillion with a score of 50-37, said Kimmell, of Frederick, Md.

"I am very happy and delighted," Kimmell said. "I wanted to show all the young kids that this old-timer still has a little bit left in him."

Absent from the final day of play was defending champion Jeremy Hulse, 15, of Hagerstown. Hulse lost by one point, 50-49, during his final match Saturday.

Still, he was in the bleachers to check out Sunday's action and bond with the other players.

"It's just a good bit of fun," Hulse said.

The fate of another Hagerstown competitor, his older brother, Jonathan Hulse, 16, was apparent earlier in his final match, which he lost 50-9.

The rules of Ringmaster-style marbles are as follows:

  • Two players play head-to-head in an attempt to score 50 points first.

  • Players take shots at marbles in a 13-marble rack, shaped like a plus sign, placed in the center of a circle at the start of each round.

  • Players score points by knocking a ball out of the ring, a circle that is 10 feet in diameter, but only if their ball, the shooter, remains inside the ring.


Jonathan began playing after a friend talked him into going to a tournament a few years ago.

"He said there'd be brownies, so I went," Jonathan said. "I really liked it, so I kept doing it."

Jonathan said he then started practicing up to six hours a day. Within a year, the persistence paid off in the form of a first-place finish at the 2002 National Marble Tournament.

Jonathan said camaraderie is the best part of the events.

"Everybody's nice, and every game is so different," he said. "It's really a social event."

And though there is a strong bond between the players, they are all sweating it out to win bragging rights and the championship check, worth $500 Sunday, said Paul McKeone, the tournament's player representative.

"I'm glad I got mine in already. There are some of the best in the world playing at this tournament," said McKeone, who won the inaugural event in 1994.

- Staff writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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