Gunnison teen crowned national champion
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Sally Hays

Gunnison’s Spencer Hays, 13, proved himself to be the most dominant male player in the game of marbles this year, beating his opponent in the 2019 national championship headto-head match on Thursday, June 20, in Wildwood, N.J.

Spencer defeated Koby Wright of Cumberland, Md., by a score of eight wins and one loss in the best of a 15-game series. This was the 96th year for this tournament, making it the longest running youth competition in the country for ages 8-14.

After finishing third in the national tournament last year, and fourth the year prior, Spencer said he realized his potential to win in recent months.

“I was just starting to shoot a lot better than I had earlier,” he said.

In order to be eligible for the national tournament, a “mibster” must win a state or regional competition and be invited by the national marbles tournament committee. Players compete in the game of Ringer, in which 13 marbles are placed in the center of a 10-foot ring, three inches apart, in the form of a plus sign.

Competitors play headto-head trying to hit the most marbles out of the ring in six innings (one miss per inning). If one player hits seven marbles out before six innings is completed, the game is over.

Spencer competed among 28 boys from around the country. He won the three-day preliminary round with a score of 46 wins, eight losses and had 12 sticks. A stick is accomplished by hitting seven target marbles out of the ring in the first inning without missing, utilizing the skill of backspin to keep the shooter in the ring.

“In the first three days of preliminary play, I was feeling good and had a chance,” he recalled. “In the semi-finals, there were a few times I realized that if I didn’t win this game, I wouldn’t get to the finals.”

Yet, Spencer won his division of the semi-final round with a score of nine wins and three losses to earn the right to play for the championship.

His rewards for winning the championship included a $2,000 college scholarship, the championship trophy, the “King of Marbles” crown, a national champion wrist watch and shirt, and a championship plaque from the tournament sponsor. Spencer also received trophies for the most wins in the preliminary round and the most “sticks” in the competition.

Spencer’s first duty as the King of Marbles was to bestow the traditional kiss on the cheek of the “Queen of Marbles” (the dominant female player in her sport). He also will have continuing obligations between now and the 2020 national tournament to promote the game of marbles.

At the close of the 2020 tournament, he will crown the new King of Marbles, and will present a gift and be inducted into the National Marbles Hall of Fame.

Mother Sally noted that the national marbles tournament has been a big part of the family’s summer plans for the last nine years. It all started with Spencer’s sister, Alex, attending the tournament in 2010. In the ensuing years, sister Joslyn attended as well, followed by Spencer.

Spencer’s father, Shan, and sisters Alex and Joslyn, all refereed at this year’s national tournament.

The family wished that longtime coach Jerry Piquette could have been in attendance for Spencer’s win. While Piquette wasn’t able to make it, the youngster’s victory did come on Piquette’s birthday.

And Spencer phoned Piquette — who was able to watch the finals online — immediately after his victory to share the news.

“It was very surreal,” Spencer said of earning the national title. “I had been trying to win for four years now. I didn’t really believe it until a few days afterward.”