Pitching horseshoes brings recognition for Roan Mountain youth

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Correspondent

   What is considered by some as a past-time, the sport of pitching horseshoes is becoming part of the new millennium for others.
   One youngster who is making a name for himself across the south is 12-year-old Junior Tennessee State champion, Jordan Johnson.
   Johnson came away with the title last year in the 18-and-younger bracket, which was held in Juliet, Tenn.
   "It feels good to be able to win it, but there are a lot of people saying that they're going to try and take it away from me," said Johnson.
   Jordan began throwing when he was nine years old, hanging out and learning the game from his father, David.
   "I was nine when I started, and I kind of liked it, so I began going to tournaments with him, and eventually started becoming sort of good at it," said Johnson.
   Jordan credits both his dad and state champion Shannon Foster for his success.
   With cold weather hampering some of his practice time, Jordan says he still tries to get out at least every other day if possible.
   A couple of other sports that has Jordan's interest are basketball and baseball.
   Coming up just one game shy in this season's basketball tournament, Jordan's Cloudland Highlanders finished second in the Carter County Youth League Pee-wee division.
   "I would love to be a professional basketball player some day, but it will probably be hard to make that happen," says Johnson.
   Jordan is a sixth-grader at Cloudland Elementary, and has managed to be an A and B student.
   "My favorite subject in school is P.E., but besides that I also like social studies," said Johnson.
   Some of Jordan's idols are Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr. his friend Shannon Foster, and of course his dad.
   An upcoming event for Jordan is the Carolina Dogwood Tournament, which is held in Statesville, N.C.
   Johnson finished runner-up last year to 16-year-old Eric Gannon in the North Carolina State tournament at Wilkesboro, and will be one of the favorites in this season's competition.
   "The Gannon kid is really tough," Johnson said. "He can even beat my dad."
   Jordan is already competing against the older guys, due to the lack of participation of the junior class.
   "If he will keep practicing at it, then probably in a couple of years he will be beating most of us," says Jordan's dad, David.
   The youngster finished second in a tournament in Asheville, only to lose in a sudden death pitch-off.
   Pitching in the lower adult division often, it will be just a matter of time before Jordan moves up the ranks.
   "It's like Shannon Foster told him, 'If you stick with it, then you will probably be facing guys like me by the time you get 18,'" said David.
   Foster is currently ranked in the top 11 in the world, and Jordan could possibly be one of his most fierce competitors for the future.
   "Shannon has helped my son and others tremendously, and he's a good role model for kids," says David.
   Watch out for Jordan to repeat as champion this year, as he continues to outring the competition on his way to the horseshoe crown.