Bellefonte croquet tournament is a wicket good time

Mitch Bradley takes a shot during the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce Croquet Tournament on Sunday, June 7, 2015 at Talleyrand Park.
Mitch Bradley takes a shot during the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce Croquet Tournament on Sunday, June 7, 2015 at Talleyrand Park. CDT photo

The inventors of croquet probably did not have cheerleading in mind when they conjured up the game, but that did not stop 9-year-old Kamiah Wian from occasionally chanting in Talleyrand Park on Sunday afternoon.

“Be aggressive, be be aggressive,” she said as her mother — and teammate — Janae Wian lined up a shot with her mallet.

The mother-daughter duo was one of 16 two-person teams competing in the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual croquet tournament Sunday. The event, a fundraiser for the chamber, has been held for about 15 years, chamber president and event co-chairman Chuck Kormanski said.

Croquet is different and there’s not many tournaments like it around, Kormanski said of the choice of game for the fundraiser, although venue certainly played a part in the decision.

“It’s Victorian Bellefonte and croquet is a Victorian sport,” Kormanski said, adding that the game is also relatively cheap and easy to organize and can be played by people of both genders and all ages.

The event is held the first Sunday in June every year and costs $20 per team to enter, Kormanski said. Many participants teamed up with co-workers from local businesses, like Big Spring Spirits and Logan Branch Insurance, although participants do not have to be members of the chamber or represent a business to sign up. Teams compete for medals, with the first- and second-place team each getting hardware. First-place winners also get $100 each and second place $50 apiece.

Most teams had colorful names, like The Fireballs and The Remarkables. Defending champion Keep Her Out of the Ditches was off to a hot start Sunday, winning its first two matches of the double elimination tournament.

Team member Lance Stover, of Bellefonte, said the name was taken from a racehorse he and his mother noticed during a trip a few years ago. His mom is his usual teammate at the event, but friend Robert Markle, also of Bellefonte, filled in Sunday because she was out of town.

Stover said croquet has been a fun backyard pastime for him and his family, although the tournament rules took some adjustment.

“This is played a lot different,” Stover said. “It’s geared more for a team.”

Those rules were enforced by three referees from the Bellefonte Sunrise Rotary Club, which has been involved since the event’s inception.

The outing was also a family affair for another pair of former tournament champions. Chris and Andrea Murrell, collectively known as The Future Mayors of Bellefonte” returned for the first time in a few years. They had previously won the tournament three times.

A third teammate joined them this year. Their 6-week-old son Luke slept through the tournament, cradled against Chris’ chest, and didn’t stir as his father played shots one-handed.

The event has grown a bit since they last competed, Andrea Murrell said.

“It’s nice to see a bigger turnout,” she said.

As for the Wians, croquet experience is a bit more limited. Janae played last year as a part of team from North Central Digital Systems, where she works. It was their first time as a team, but Kamiah had tried the game before at school. Janae said they plan to return as a team next year.

Kamiah wasted no time practicing and hit some balls with a mallet between games.

“I think the game is OK, but I don’t like to lose,” she said.