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For Harrison kids playing regional marbles matches, it's not just a game

| Monday, April 18, 2011

Novice mibster Sydney Ness spent Sunday afternoon slinging her way into Allegheny County's marbles tournament.

Five other youths who participated over the weekend in regional matches staged at Harrison Hills Park are eligible to join her. Most are fellow novices who were recruited to play by Friends of Harrison Hills Park.

About 200 youths are expected to play in June's county tournament at the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard in Pittsburgh. The top two boys and girls there will advance to the 88th National Marbles Tournament later that month in Wildwood, N.J.

Sydney, 11, of Richland proved to be a quick study. After only a few minutes of practice, she started rolling her shooter across the playing deck with remarkable accuracy.

"It's just like flipping a coin," she said.

Her younger brothers, Pierce and Clay Beyer, 5 and 6, respectively, also participated. They were forced to square off against one another. A county official said Clay won the chance to play Downtown.

"This is a good experience for them," said their grandmother, Diana Solomon of Buffalo Township.

Nickolas Aliff, 9, of West Deer wasn't expecting to shoot marbles when he showed up at the park to watch his sister play soccer. When asked by park volunteers if he wanted to play, he eagerly accepted.

Like Sydney, Nickolas displayed a seasoned touch. His father, Miles, said the family has a marbles set that Nickolas toys around with.

Colin McMillen, 6, of Kittanning was the lone child who arrived at the park intending to play -- sort of. His father, Justin, didn't tell him why they were going to the park until they arrived.

Justin McMillen said his mother suggested letting Colin participate.

"We just saw it in the newspaper and thought we'd bring him down here," McMillen said.

Tournament bound

Eight children played in a marbles tournament Saturday and Sunday at Harrison Hills Park. Six will move on to the county-level tournament, where they will compete for a trip the National Marbles Tournament. They are Nickolas Aliff, 9, of West Deer; Clay Beyer, 6, of Richland; Grant Crytzer; Cole Furer; Colin McMillen, 6, of Kittanning and Sydney Ness, 11, of Richland.

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