The 2016 U.S. Kubb Championship (USKC) weekend started Friday afternoon with a trip to the Eau Claire Soccer Park to get a feeling for the pitches. The Kubb Squirrels (Brothers Neil, Kyle & Paul Weakland) arrived to see many teams warming up and getting ready for the next day. Many of these teams they had only seen in YouTube videos while learning strategy and tactics over the past year. They got in a few games and had the opportunity to talk to some of their friends from the Kubb community. The next day would be the day that they had worked and trained for all year.
Saturday morning the Kubb Squirrels were up just after 5am, too excited, nervous and eager for the day. At the hotel breakfast they ran into an equally as excited Jesse Fraim, a friend from the Settlers of Baton. They traded stories and hopes for the day and quickly headed out to the pitches to get warmed up.
After warm-ups at 9am the first round began. The Kubb Squirrels started their first match against a new local team the Krazy Kubbers. The first game did not go as the Kubb Squirrels thought. They missed a lot of 4-meter shots, their inkasting was not to their ability and they were not hitting their 8-meter shots. This resulted in a quick and unexpected loss. The Kubb Squirrels shrugged off the loss, loosened themselves up and by the middle of the second game started to play some better Kubb and took the second game. They noticed that the Krazy Kubbers inkastre had been watching closely how the Kubb Squirrels were inkasting and by the third match he was doing really well. The third game was close for quite a while and went back and forth but the Squirrels got an advantage line and finished the game off.
After the first match the Squirrels started to get their stride back and rolled through their second match against a local team the Eau Claire Crew. By the third match the Kubb Squirrels were really starting to feel like they were playing quality Kubb. They were facing off against Team Kubboom-The Supernova an experienced team from Eau Claire and Rockford, Illinois. They had one of the 3 players who had participated in all 10 U.S. Kubb Championships so the Kubb Squirrels knew they would have to bring their A game. They did just that by hitting 8-meter shots early and often, putting pressure on Team Kubboom the entire match and finishing the match with a quick 2-0 victory!
After a quick lunch and warm-up during the break, The Kubb Squirrels started the Championship bracket with a 2-0 win over the Lords and Ladies of Glencoe Wood from Minnesota. The next opponent Tyr’s Tre wouldn’t be so easy. Tyr’s Tre is another local Eau Claire team. This wasn’t an ordinary local team; this was a team that had won the Leinenkugel’s Kubb Championship just a couple months earlier over a team with Darren Finger (2015 USKC runner up, 2015 U.S. 1v1 Champion) Gregg Jochimsen (2015 USKC runner up) and Mark Blazel (2012 &13 USKC Champion). Not to mention they beat 2010 USKC Champion the Ringers and one of their players was on the U.S. team that took 2nd at the 2014 World Championships in Gotland, Sweden. Needless to say this was a great team.
The first game was tough but the Kubb Squirrels were playing really well, knocking down 8-meter shots and inkasting really well. The Kubb Squirrels took the first game and you could tell surprised Tyr’s Tre with their quality of play. The second game was back and forth; both inkasters were battling trading one great pile with another. Eventually Tyr’s Tre hit the shots that mattered and took the second game.
The third game was much like the second, back and forth and turned into a battle between the inkasters. Eventually Tyr’s Tre had cleared the Squirrels’ back line with their last baton of the turn. With 8 kubbs out the Squirrels really needed to get at least one of their two baseline kubbs down this turn. Kyle inkasted the 8 kubbs as well as he had all day and grabbed his two batons to start blasting. Looking at the pile, Kyle thought they could clear the 8 field kubbs in 3-4 batons. He took aim and knocked down 3 kubbs with his first blast, leaving the other 5 in a relatively close pile. Kyle stepped into his second shot and knocked all five remaining kubbs to the ground! Opening a great opportunity for the Squirrels to take out their 2 remaining baseline kubbs. Neil was up next; he slowly starred down the last 2 baseline kubbs and threw his first baton and knocked it down! He took one step over, stared the second baseline down and knocked it down as well!! Leaving Paul with 2 batons for the King shot but he would only need one as he calmly stepped up and knocked down the King for the win!
The Kubb Squirrels were now just one win away from their goal, to play on Sunday. They had a break before their next match and caught up with their Pennsylvania friends the Kubbstaches and the Settlers of Baton from Michigan who are all still alive in Championship play. They watched some other great matches and got back to warming up for what would be the last match of the day, win or lose. Win and move on to Championship play on Sunday against the 16 best teams in the country, lose and end the trip tied for 17th.
Their next opponent would be Come on Eileen, another local team from Eau Claire. The first game was slow for both teams. Maybe the long break between matches had got both teams out of their rhythm but either way someone was going to have to win. It was an unorthodox match to say the least with one culminating moment summarizing the match. With an advantage line as far up as you can get the Kubb Squirrels torpedoed 2 batons in a row into the middle pin… It doesn’t get much lower than that but the Squirrels got back on track and won the game. By the second game the Kubb Squirrels were starting to play better Kubb again and cruised to a win and qualified for to play on Sunday!
The Kubb Squirrels spent the rest of the day rooting on their kubb friends. The Kubbstaches lost in the championship bracket but made it all the way to the Championship of the silver bracket and lost to… Tyr’s Tre. The Settlers of Baton finished T-17, one win from playing on Sunday. Their friend Chris Jones from the Lumber Tumblers made it to Sunday while the Kubb Squirrels were also playing. They also got done just in time to watch their friend Bryan Jones with the Kubbigans at the end of their match to play on Sunday. Bryan with two batons and one baseline kubb left, hit the baseline kubb and the king to win the match! So it’ll be fun having 2 other teams to root for the next day. (Watch the ending here)