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For jousters McGill and Angevine, the ring's the thing

Randy McGill, known in local ring jousting circles as "The Knight of Camelot," arrives at Glen Arm Field early Saturday morning last weekend with his 17-year-old horse, Taz.

John Angevine, "The Knight of Anjou," pulls up with his 11-year-old horse, Nip Tuck, who also goes by Andy.

McGill, 38, of Towson and Angevine, 74, of Beltsville have taken different paths to the Amateur Jousting Club Championship Joust and the William Bell Joust, but they share a passion for the state's official sport.

Angevine, 5 feet 6 with gray hair, began jousting in the 1980s and is the club's oldest member.

"I had a general interest to do something with horses besides ride them," he said. "I was kind of a latecomer, growing up in the city."

Angevine also enjoys the social aspect of jousting tournaments, relating it to a tailgate.

"It's like what you do in the parking lot before football games. That's usually more fun than the actual game," he said.

McGill, who has been riding horses for much of his life, is relatively new to jousting — having started in 2005. He says he was introduced to the sport by accident while visiting a rescue farm.

"While we were over there visiting to look at the stallions, they said, 'Well, if you're a rider, you should come to the benefit jousting tournament.' I was like, 'Heck, yeah, sounds like fun to me.'"

The sport, which has been played in Maryland since its colonization in 1634, gave his riding a sense of purpose.

"Before [jousting], I ... I didn't really have a good time [riding]," he said. "Once I started jousting, it really gave me a reason to want to ride and something to drive me and drive me to excel at it. It was really just one of those things that you fall into and you're glad you did it."

Keeping up with the sport isn't hard either, according to McGill.

"The classes are $5 a class," he said. "All you have to do is get your horse there and you have to have a lance, but most people just build those. It's not too difficult to do. I built my first lance out of a shovel handle with a piece of steel."

After the men sign waivers, they begin to prepare their horses for the day's jousts.

McGill, wearing a gray Maryland jousting polo, takes Taz out of his trailer and begins to buckle his saddle onto the black horse, who is eating hay from a bag hanging from the door. McGill then stretches Taz's legs, bending them backward before Taz finishes the stretch by putting his hoof forward and putting pressure on the heel of his foot.

Angevine, wearing a short-sleeved striped polo, does the same to Andy, who is brown and white.

McGill and Angevine are semipro riders, meaning that each has won six jousts in both the Novice and Amateur classes.

A semipro jouster has nine seconds to complete the course or his turn is disqualified. He gets three rides, giving the potential to collect a total of nine dangling rings with his lance.

Rings for semipros are 11/4 inches in diameter. If there is a tie at the end of the joust, the diameter is decreased by a quarter of an inch each turn until there is a winner.

The jousters take turns riding practice rounds through the 80-yard track. They make sure their horses follow the right path, under each of three 6-foot-9 iron arches.

The distance from the starting line to the first arch is 20 yards, and the distance between each arch is 30 yards. The finish line is the third arch.

Before a jouster's turn, he waits for a signal.

"The rings are hung and the track is clear. Charge, Sir Knight, charge!"

McGill completes each turn in 7.5 seconds or less and collects all nine rings for first place.

Angevine finishes in third with four rings.

After the rings are downgraded to 1 inch for the William Bell, the jousters begin their final regular-season competition.

McGill goes through the first two arches and collects both rings, but he fails to collect the third. Angevine ties him with two rings.

In the second round, McGill collects the first ring but misses the second before getting the third and final ring, sealing his first-place finish.

Angevine fails to collect a ring and finishes third.

All the competitors congratulate one another before the crowning ceremony, in which each jouster is awarded either a ribbon or trophy and a pot of flowers.

"There's competition, but it's very friendly competition," McGill said. "There's no animosity there. Everybody is willing to help everyone else, and everybody pulls together to make it all happen. It's just a really good community thing."

Yearly awards are handed out, and McGill receives the top spot.

Before he leaves the field, he packs the trunk and looks at his trophies and flowers.

"I think," he says, jokingly, "these are the most awards I've ever brought home."

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More jousting

Maryland State Championship Joust

Oct. 5, 10 a.m.

Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, Crownsville

National Jousting Championship

Oct. 12, 10 a.m.

Petersville Farmers Club Woods, Brunswick

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