September 10, 2009
Fun, Friendship, and Kilts: Kyle Daley: Law Student, Competitive Highland Athlete
During the summer, second-year law student and Pendleton, Oregon, native Kyle Daley took top honors for the third year in a row at the Caledonian Games in Athena, Oregon.
The Caledonian Games is just one of many Highland athletic competitions occurring throughout the country. Highland athletic events are, as Daley describes, “a cross between the World’s Strongest Man and Track and Field.” According to Daley, games generally are comprised of eight or nine events that award those who place in each event as well as those who are the overall high scorers. Some events require a great deal of strength and power, while others require skill and speed. Professionals in the sport are eligible to earn prize money just as in any other sport.
Below is a Q&A with Daley focusing on how he came to compete in such a unique sport, how he managed to train during his first year of law school, and, of course, the challenges of competing in a kilt.
Q: How did you come to be a Highland athlete?
A: I competed in track field for the University of Idaho. I was a hammer thrower and held the school record for several years. I have also competed in the USA National Track & Field Championships several times, with the last being in 2005.
My introduction to the highland games came via my mother. She had attended the Portland Highland Games and thought it looked kind of crazy, but unique. My track season generally would end in late June and she thought it was a great idea to compete in the games to keep my edge for hammer throwing. I entered the Portland Highland Games as a novice (there are several skill classifications) and managed to win. I found I enjoyed the games more than hammer throwing due to its unique nature and the camaraderie of the athletes.
I entered three highland games competitions the following year and had a successful run and quickly moved up to amateur A status. Amateur A is one level below Professional status. In about half the events I am professional caliber, but have always been too busy with work to focus on turning professional. I compete more for the fun, friendship, and opportunity to wear a kilt without anyone thinking it strange.
Q: So what is your training regime like?
A: When I was healthy [Daley is suffering from an injured shoulder], I would generally do the workout program that I’ve used since track and field. A lot of power work (cleans, snatches, squats, and bench press). I would do sprints, run stairs and do plenty of plyometric exercises as well. I’m a small athlete in comparison to most of the other guys and have to rely on speed and power, rather than brute body mass.
I use each competition as practice for the next. I’m hoping my shoulder will continue to heal and that with a year of law school experience under my belt, I can more efficiently schedule training sessions, gain some solid weight, and be in more competitive shape for next year.
Q: Did you find it difficult to continue training while in law school?
A: Yes. I found I had little time to do much of any training. Adjusting to law school was tough on me after years of being in the work force. The beer and pizza diet of the average law student combined with a lack of exercise really did a number on my conditioning this year.
In addition, I had a close family member pass away before spring finals. It’s been a taxing school year, but I’m returning hungry to tackle law school and to hit my training much harder this coming year.
Q: What is your favorite Highland event?
A: I used to like the hammer as it is akin to the hammer used in track. Nowadays, I really enjoy the 56 lb. Weight for Height. It’s an event sometimes seen in the World’s Strongest Man Competition. You get three attempts to toss a 56 lb. weight over a standard at a given height. It’s similar to high jump or pole vault where the athletes choose a starting height and, if successful in clearing the height, continue to make attempts at increasing heights.
It’s an event that normally caters to larger bodies, but I’ve managed to have success even in my injured state. I guess all those years of Olympic style power training in track & field has paid dividends for me in the pure power events. I cannot claim to be the strongest, but I usually do very well where speed is a factor.
Q: Besides Oregon, where else are Highland events contested?
A: I’ve generally kept to the West Coast, attending games in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Canada. There actually are quite a few games nationwide. The largest games I’ve competed at are in Portland; Enumclaw, Washington; and Pleasanton, California. These events attract thousands of people.
There also are international competitions with the most famous being in Braemar, Scotland. The British Royal family attends the event each year ’“ it’s considered one of their signature annual appearances. You always see pictures of Prince Charles sporting his kilt at this event. I’ve had friends compete in Braemar and it is on my “To Do” list when I’m no longer a poor law student.
Q: The kilt: does everyone competing at these games wear one or is that something you choose to do?
A: You don’t have to wear a kilt as a novice, but kilts generally are required for sanctioned competitions. Many competitions are sponsored and sanctioned by governing bodies. They have strict rules of competition and require the athlete to wear a kilt and long hose, as well as having specifications for implements, throwing sectors, and drug testing procedures. Generally though, most athletes have traded the traditional woolen hose for soccer socks. I had a kilt made in my family tartan, McKay.
Q: What do your family and friends think of your athletic achievements?
A: My family has always been supportive. The Caledonian Games and the Portland Highland Games are on back-to-back weekends in July. My family reserves these two weeks for the games and me. They make a picnic out of the whole deal and keep me loaded with sandwiches, Powerade, and cookies. I’d be content if they only brought cookies, so you can imagine that I appreciate their continued support.
Q: So, what made you decide on law school?
A: Before I came to law school, I worked in public health in La Grande, Oregon. I worked in various capacities including coordinating the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Grant for four Northeast Oregon counties.