Sam Adame crouched in front of a stake as the sun set on a sweltering August day, centering the open end of a horseshoe around the metal pole.
``Do you see how much room they have to clear that at 40 feet?'' he asked. The three and a half inches of space between the two prongs left little clearance room to get around the stake, which was almost an inch in diameter. ``That's not an easy thing to do.''
Adame, who has been throwing horseshoes since 1959 and was inducted into the Kansas Horseshoe Hall of Fame in 1984, is the coach of Premiere Ringers, the women's horseshoe club in Lawrence. The club was formed this year and is the first women-only horseshoe club in Kansas.
Another first this year involves the state horseshoe championship, which will be held Labor Day weekend in Great Bend. For the first time, Lawrence women, all members of the new club, are competing. They are Wynne Mihura and Rebecca West, both of Lawrence, and Teresa Jewell of Kansas City, Kan.
MIHURA, WHO IS president of the club, has only been throwing horseshoes for about a year. At the encouragement of her brother, Mihura and her son, Terry, entered their first horseshoe competition at the 1992 Kansas State Sunflower Games. Terry won the gold medal, Mihura the silver.
Mihura said winning a medal at the Sunflower Games inspired her to practice throwing and compete in more horseshoe tournaments.
``That's kind of what got me excited and going,'' she said.
At first, she practiced and played with men. However, she said she felt there was a need for a women's club because women throw horseshoes from 30 feet away from the spike, 10 feet less than the distance from which men throw.
Mihura said when she first started throwing with women in the club, the difference in distance had an effect.
``You've got to learn your distance,'' she said. ``When I first started I was overthrowing because I had only played with men.''
Adame agreed the difference in distance was one reason why it was important to have a women's club.
ANOTHER FACTOR is self-confidence, he added. Because many women are first-time players, they may think they can't learn to play when they start out with experienced male players.
``They can do it, but it's just a matter of practice,'' he said. ``Even with talent it takes a lot of practice.''
Although many people may not realize it, throwing horseshoes is also good exercise, Adame said.
``It's a good game, and it's good exercise,'' he said. ``The shoe weighs about two pounds and four ounces, and the men throw that 40 feet and the women throw it 30 feet.''
A typical match will have each player either throwing 50 shoes or throwing until one player scores 40 points. A player gets points either by throwing a ringer, which scores three, or by having the shoe closest to the stake, which scores one.
Either way, a match involves many trips back and forth between the two stakes.
``It's good exercise because you do a lot of walking,'' Adame said.
The members of Premiere Ringers agreed that throwing horseshoes gave them a workout.
``IT'S GOOD EXERCISE and you don't have to put a whole lot of effort into it,'' Jewell said. ``You don't have to run and jump or anything, but you do a whole lot of walking.''
She added that although she belonged to another horseshoe club in Missouri, she liked coming to Lawrence to play on a women-only team, especially because Adame coaches it.
West said she also thought Adame's coaching was very valuable.
``He sees things we're doing wrong that we don't even know we're doing wrong,'' she said. ``Plus, it's just a lot of fun.''
Mihura said she was pleased with the number of people who turned out during the club's first year, even if several of them quit coming to the Wednesday evening practices in Broken Arrow Park after weeks of rain and flooding canceled practices and competitions. However, the group will continue to meet and she said she hoped to get even more women interested.
``We're going to pull it together now that it has quit raining, and hopefully the weather will be cooler,'' she said. ``It's not been the best year, but I've had a few girls I've introduced horseshoes to.
``We think we'll get more people introduced to it and get more women involved.''
Anyone interested in learning more about the club or in joining may call Mihura at 843-8450.