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Identity & Community

Don't Lose Your Marbles, Four From Allegheny Co. Headed To National Tournament

Since 1922, 29 champions of the National Marbles Championship in Wildwood, N.J. have been from Allegheny County. This year, four mibsters, or marble shooters, from the county will compete in hopes of becoming the next champions.

Eli Murphy, 13, resides in Squirrel Hill but practices at St. Michael’s Street on the South Side Slopes with South Side resident Lauren Shuty, 12. Shuty is the Allegheny County Champion.

Allegheny County Champion Bobby Narr, 13, and Madison Johnson, 12, practice together in Lawrenceville.

All four mibsters practice everyday in order to retain muscle memory and stay focused. Most of them end up logging hundreds of hours of practice every year.

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Credit Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA
Madison Johnson, 12, of Lawrenceville, places marbles in formation ahead of a game.

Marbles is an individual sport that requires players to try and knock the most marbles out of a ring. The mibsters launch a marble, called the shooter, into the 13 marbles in the center of the circle. Whoever knocks the most marbles out is the winner.

While immense focus, dedication and practice is required to succeed at the sport, all four competitors remain light-hearted and playful when they compete against each other.

“It’s like one big happy family,” Narr said. “We’re all friends, there’s never really any problems, we’re just all together.”

The familial bonds are evident, especially between Shuty and Murphy. 

“We have a love-hate relationship,” Shuty said.

The competition in Wildwood, N.J. provides an opportunity to win scholarship money and national recognition. Although the competition is tight, the National Marbles Championship houses the players together and organizes group activities, giving the mibsters an opportunity to bond.

“My daughter competed against a girl from Colorado the year she won (the national championship) and they’re still best friends,” said Dawn Narr, Bobby’s mother.

While the world of marbles is a mystery to most living in Pittsburgh, the four young competitors headed to New Jersy this week are evidence that Allegheny County produces all types of champions.

“Pittsburgh is known as the City of Champions, and it feels very special to be a quiet part of that magic,” said Christine Shuty, Lauren’s mother.

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Hear the extended interviews with the Allegheny County children headed to the National Marbles Tournament.