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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Woman’s love of sports drives her to heal others

  • Emily Burchett likes throwing giant sticks and balls of twine, but only when surrounded by people in kilts.
    Burchett, a physical therapist assistant in Lindsborg, has been competing in Highland games for about 10 years. Her father and older brothers also compete.
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  • Emily Burchett likes throwing giant sticks and balls of twine, but only when surrounded by people in kilts.
    Burchett, a physical therapist assistant in Lindsborg, has been competing in Highland games for about 10 years. Her father and older brothers also compete.
    The family’s interest in Highland games started when Burchett’s sister started doing Scottish dancing at festivals.
    “My dad walked around and saw the athletics, and he’s like, ‘That looks like fun!’ So he started doing it,” Burchett said. “Then my two other brothers started doing it, and I thought it looked like fun, so I just joined in.”
    Burchett competes in all the Highland games events, including the caber toss, weight throw, hammer throw and sheaf toss, the last of which is her favorite event. She said she and her family have a training schedule they follow when preparing to compete, often with hand-made equipment.
    “We do lots of Olympic lifting, lots of power, anything that is explosive movements,” Burchett said. “We make a lot of our own weights. We make the cabers, or sometimes people buy them and sell them, so we do a lot of the throwing.”
    Burchett said one of her brothers now competes in Highland games professionally, and it looks like the other will do the same. However, Burchett’s interests took her a different route.
    “My brother broke his wrist, and he was in the hospital,” Burchett said. “He had a roommate who was an amputee, and I just saw him getting physical therapy, and I was like, ‘Well that’s kind of cool.’”
    Burchett said this sparked her interest in becoming a physical therapist.
    “I wanted the medical background,” Burchett said. “I liked how the body worked, I liked sports, I liked those type of things, so that was one of the few professions that fit all the things that I wanted to do.”
    Burchett recently graduated from North Iowa Area Community College, and six weeks ago, she took up a physical therapy assistant position at Lindsborg Hospital. She said participating in Highland games influenced her decision.
    “I knew that sports and sports rehab and all of that really interested me, how that all functioned and worked together,” Burchett said. “I was in sports, and that helped me excel.”
    Burchett said she plans to compete in the Highland games at the McPherson Scottish Festival this weekend, as do some of her family members. For Burchett, being able to compete with her family has been a great experience.
    “Growing up, my brothers have been my coaches, and we throw ideas off each other, so it’s been a lot of fun to see all of us progress,” Burchett said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Though Burchett hasn’t gone pro like her brothers, but she’s still had the opportunity to take her Highland games skills around the country and world. In 2011, she won the title of Iowa’s strongest woman, and she has competed in Highland games internationally.
    “I’ve gone to Iceland, and I’ve competed there,” Burchett said. “There were people from all over the world — Germany, the U.S., Canada. I also competed in Ohio, and there were three teams from the U.S., a Scottish team and a Canadian team.”
    Burchett said her team placed fourth in that competition, but winning isn’t what she likes best.
    “It’s fun all the time. The people you meet from all these countries, they’re so nice,” Burchett said. “We all like to have a good time, we all like to see each other do well, and we like to help each other and just have a good time. It’s a lot of fun to see people from all around the world enjoying the sport.”
    In the end, it’s the people that matter most to Burchett.
    “My absolute favorite is the atmosphere and the company I’m in,” Burchett said. “I love to throw, but seeing other people excel and having this really good time with all my friends is my favorite part of it.”
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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