It’s horseshoe season again, and Eli Sullivan, Crozet’s 11-year-old prodigy, is able to compete with adults, meaning he pitches from 30 feet away, rather than the 20-foot distance mandated for cadets. In North Carolina last month, he proved over and over again that he’s outgrown the “cadet” class, where he competed previously and is the world record holder. The North Carolina tournament showed that Eli could do more than hold his own with the longer pitch length and more seasoned pitchers. His stunning performance there earned him a cash reward. “He came home in the money,” said long-time friend Heath Shawn.
That’s not to say he won’t defend his cadet world title. He’ll do that this summer in Lansing, Michigan, and Shawn has no doubt that he’ll retain his #1 position.
“He’s a rock star in the horseshoe world,” Shawn said. “Pitching in the pro circuit means he’s met a lot of new people, but everyone had heard of him.” Shawn said Eli’s fame has worked in his favor: “Some people get rattled, and it shows when they pitch against him.” Eli will meet more pitchers in Lansing, including his closest cadet rival and friend, T.J. Grose, from Las Vegas.
“Eli’s looking forward to seeing him,” Shawn said. “We all try to support each other in the horseshoe world, and Eli has learned from that.” Eli remains a normal, humble kid who focuses on his pitching rather than putting down his opponents.
Although surprised at his growing fame and the number of people seeking his attention at competitions, Eli remains steadfast and calm, with a kind of focus that’s as helpful to his success as his constant practice. “He’s not fazed by any of it,” Shawn said.
Friends of Eli and the Sullivan family are seeking sponsors and also community support for the family’s travel. Parkway Pharmacy has agreed to be a collection point. Mail donations to Eli Sullivan, c/o Parkway Pharmacy, P.O. Box 8, Crozet, VA 22932.