Q and A with Kevin and Kenna Halsey
Every Friday, the Portland Tribune puts questions to a prominent -- or not so prominent -- local person or couple.
Kevin and Kenna Halsey throw things - around the house, around the park - heavy things, odd-shaped objects.
They throw constantly. They throw on their lunch breaks from their jobs as environmental consultants at Parametrix Inc. They throw cabers of varying length. One at a time, of course. In fact, they make their own cabers.
Cabers, in case you haven't figured out the Halseys yet, are long wooden poles, tree trunks really, that don't look like they should be thrown at all. The throw is actually more of a lift and push, accompanied usually but not always by a gut-busting grunt or shout. The caber, or tree trunk, goes end over end. The Halseys go competition to competition.
The Mount Tabor couple compete in highland games, celebrations of Scottish and Celtic heritage. They'll compete in the 54th annual Portland Highland Games Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College this weekend and in the Masters World Championship in Inverness, Scotland, the weekend after.
At the Portland games there will be bagpipes and fiddle competitions, costumed highland dancers, border collies herding sheep, and maybe wayward children. But the Halseys - he's 41, she's 40 - won't herd, dance or play music. They just throw; but because Kevin isn't nearly as large or competitive as some of the other athletes, there have been a few doubters along the way.
Portland Tribune: Have you set goals for the upcoming competitions?
Kevin Halsey: Generally my only goal is to throw in at least five games (a year). And in order to be competitive I'm going to be in one of the lightweight classes.
Kenna Halsey: He's been dieting to get down to 200 pounds. That's what you have to be to get in the skinny old man's class.
Kevin: I got to 199 pounds for the first time on Sunday.
Tribune: So you've made it. Congratulations.
Kevin: Yeah, but I'm going to be eating salads for the next two weeks.
Kenna: We're going to take a scissors to cut off his hair, his beard, fingers, anything it takes to make weight.
Tribune: Of course. All in the spirit of competition. So what's this about Kevin not being as large as some of the other throwers?
Kevin: It was at the Bellevue competition last year. I couldn't figure out where the field was. This guy was standing around, and he was about 18, he looks me up and down and says, 'Well, the dancers are over that way.'
I said, 'No, I'm throwing. Where's the athletic field?'
And he looks me up and down again and says, 'Oh, it's over this way.'
I figured it's a one-time thing. So we went up there this year, and we were sitting around. These guys came up and asked, 'What are you here for?' We said 'Athletics.' And this guy said, 'Really? You look more like a dancer.'
Tribune: You'll each be competing in eight events, including the 96-pound rock throw and tossing the caber, which can weigh up to 150 pounds. What's your best ever caber throw?
Kenna: He's still looking for one of those.
Kevin: She's working on getting competitive.
Tribune: But the games are all about fun anyway. Right?
Kenna: This is only our second full year of throwing, and we already feel like part of a family.
Tribune: A family that's collected a lot of stuff, apparently. You say you keep a complete set of throwing implements at home?
Kenna: We kind of overdo everything. There's no reason on the planet we need 19 kayaks. We get into things and stay there. So we've got 10 cabers.
Tribune: Why do you need 10 cabers?
Kenna: The same reason you need 19 kayaks.
Kevin: We've got different weights, different lengths. Weights for distance - 14-, 28-, 42- and 56-pound balls with chains. We've got four hammers, three weights for hoisting - 28, 42 and 56 pounds.
Kenna: And the stones, river rocks.
Kevin: From 12 to 26 pounds.
Tribune: When you compete in Scotland next week, are you going to do Portland proud?
Kevin: I'm glad I'm not throwing in the women's class. There are some really tough women in Scotland. I think I can make it to the middle of the pack competing over 40 and under 200. And if I could get them to add the qualification that you have to be left-handed, then I'd really be set.
Tribune: A favorite experience from the Portland Highland Games?
Kevin: Two years ago I registered late and couldn't get into the throwing events. So I did the kilt mile instead.
Tribune: How did you do?
Kevin: Not bad. I ran a 5:30 mile.
Kenna: And at that point he was over 200 pounds.
Tribune: Did the kilt slow you down?
Kevin: No. Actually, I kind of liked running in the kilt. There was a certain sense of speed.
Tribune: Sense of speed?
Kenna: It's like having a cape when you're a little kid, and it's flapping in the wind behind you.
- Peter Korn