WILDWOOD — Extreme temperatures and winds strong enough to send a tent flying couldn’t slow down play at the 91st annual National Marbles Championship.
The 42 boys and girls who competed played through it all and in the end two players from Middletown, Md. — Marilyn Fisher and Dominic Rudakevych — became the new queen and king of marbles.
Fisher defeated Kelsey Baran of Allegheny County, Pa., and in doing so joined her twin brother, Cooper, in the tournament’s list of champions. He was the boys’ champion in 2013.
‘“I was really determined because my brother won last year,” Marilyn said after her win.
Cooper helped her practice as she prepared to head to the national competition held each year at Ringer Stadium on the beach in Wildwood. “He was a great coach,” Marilyn said.
Their father, Ed Fisher, said the twins started playing marbles at age 9.
“They just took to it right away,” he said.
Marilyn, who will be going into eighth grade in the fall, explained the game’s appeal.
“All the skill involved. The accuracy you need. It’s just a really fun game not many people know about,” she said.
The players compete in the game of ringer in which 13 target marbles made of glass are placed inside a circle. The player’s goal is to shoot the target marbles out of the circle, but ideally to keep the shooter marble, made of glass or ground out of stone, inside the circle.
Dominic won the boy’s title after defeating his friend and fellow soccer player Luke Gaffigan.
His favorite part of the game? “The suspense,” Dominic said following a suspenseful match that saw him and Luke each have the lead at one point or another.
“It’s great,” Dominic said of the game’s appeal. “It teaches strategy, thinking, taking your time.”
He won on his fourth trip to the national competition.
“I’m ecstatic,” said his dad, Dan Rudakevych, adding that Luke comes from the same marbles program. “We knew one of them was going to win.”
“We’ve got a dynasty going,” Rudakevych said.
Luke, 13, said he would be back next year. “I’m happy for him,” he said after Dominic’s win.
Kelsey, 14, can’t return because players must be under age 14 to take part, but she made it to nationals three times, improving her standings with each trip.
The winners received $2,000 college scholarships, watches, trophies and other recognition along with their crowns.
And, of course, they took part in the obligatory champions’ kiss with Dominic kissing Marilyn on the cheek.
The games started Monday at Ringer Stadium which had a new look thanks to the Wildwood Volunteer Fire Company No. 1. Company president Greg Neill said the group placed wooden borders, sort of miniature boardwalks, around each of the 10 rings to help keep sand out of the play area.
The gaps between the slats proved a little too large and at one point Kelsey and Marilyn’s match had to stop after Kelsey’s shooter marble fell between them, but Neill said that issue could be easily fixed in time for next year’s event.
The boards had been on the tournament to-do list in several years, he said.
Two players in Wildwood’s fledgling marbles program also took part in this year’s competition and organizers of the local program expect to bring four players to compete next year.
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