Former Bull Dog sets world amateur record in sheaf toss

Zach Riley came within two inches of the world record in the sheaf toss earlier this year.

Two weeks ago, Riley not only broke that record, he did it three times. And he did it in his home town at the Scottish Festival at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The sheaf toss is one of nine throwing events in the Highland Games. It consists of a 16-pound burlap sack filled with twine that is thrown with a pitchfork over a bar.

The previous world record height was 40 feet, 3 inches. On Sept. 9, Riley’s tosses cleared 40-5, then 41-0 and finally 42-0.

“It was great doing it in front of family and home crowd,” Riley said. “The crowd was definitely bigger this year than in years’ past, and it was nice.”

Riley had thrown 40-1 earlier this year, but the standards didn’t go any higher.

This year, Riley has competed in 18 Highland Games all over the country. He has has won 17 times and tied for first in the other, but lost on individual event wins.

The Columbus North graduate and former All-American hammer thrower at Ball State has set two amateur world records in the Highland Games. He is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world and is in the top five overall.

Riley did not accept money this year so he could maintain his amateur status. He plans to compete in the amateur national championship in January in North Orlando, Florida, then will turn pro.

“(Being an amateur or pro) really doesn’t make that big of a difference to me,” Riley said. “There’s not a big delineation between where I’m at right now and where the pros or at. I just wanted to be able to take my family along on these trips. Plus, I wanted to do Columbus one more year, and I couldn’t have done Columbus if I was pro.”

Zach Riley

Name: Zach Riley

Age: 37

High school: Columbus North

College: Ball State (doctorate from Colorado in integrative physiology and neuroscience, post doctoral fellowship at University of Chicago in biomedical engineering)

Occupation: Kinesiology professor at IUPUI

Family: Wife Karmen, daughter Danniella

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5628.