WILDWOOD — The new king and queen of marbles won their respective titles Thursday at the 90th annual National Marbles Tournament after defeating some tough competition — their good friends.
Cooper Fisher, the 12-year-old boys champion, said he will be celebrating his win with his friends, including Luke Gaffigan, the 12-year-old he played in the finals.
“It’s such a unique game, and it’s really fun to go with my friends and meet new friends,” Cooper said of the appeal of playing marbles.
Cooper, of Middletown Valley, Md., said he practices three hours every other day in the months leading up to the nationals, which he has attended three times.
How did it feel to win?
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he said as friends and fans hugged and congratulated him.
His mother, Christine Fisher, cried after he won.
“He has nerves of steel and a lot of skill,” she said, adding that his twin sister, Marilyn, also played at the tournament this year.
The girls final was played next, and Emily Cavacini, 11, won after playing a tough match against her friend Briana Brode, 13.
Friends doused Emily, of Pittsburgh, in water and ice after her win.
“It’s just fun to play. It’s fun to be with my friends,” she said.
Emily was making her third appearance at the National Marbles Tournament, held each June at Ringer Stadium on the Wildwood Avenue beach.
Her mother, Jamie Cavacini, said her daughter began playing with her cousins, including last year’s marbles finalist Jordan Narr.
“A lot of hard work went into this,” she said.
Luke, 12, of Woodsboro, Md., learned to play in Ethiopia.
His father, Mark Gaffigan, said the family found out he knew how to play after he started shooting with his grandfather’s marbles.
The boy, who was adopted two years ago from Ethiopia, then got involved with his local marbles club the Frederick County Knucklers.
Briana, of Cumberland, Md., was making her sixth appearance at the national tournament.
The 13-year-old practiced two hours every day since March.
“I’m feeling really good for Emily. We’re all friends,” she said.
The tournament, marking its 90th year, also made a little Wildwood history by having two competitors from the city. No local players have participated since 2001, and no New Jerseyan ever has won the tournament.
Wildwood coach Betty Harshaw said India McClendon and William Portalatin won about half their 50 games in the tournament. Neither qualified for Thursday’s semifinals.
The Wildwood schools, she said, will continue to participate, and marbles is on the agenda at this year’s summer school program for fourth- and fifth-graders.
“We got a really positive start,” Harshaw said as the finals were played Thursday. “I expect it to blossom.”
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