Benji Hill cleaned up his act from last year to jump from third place in 1986 to first in 1987's U.S. Nationals Championship.
It was an enjoyable evening of competition in the beautiful Akron Civic Theatre as juggler/comedian Edward Jackman introduced the acts and entertained in between. In fact, he did such a good job that the Atlanta Jugglers Association chose him for their Wild Style Award!
Hill, an eight-year veteran juggler from Thomasville, N.C., displayed a wide variety of technical mastery, including a blazing three ball routine, four balls with continuous shoulder throws, astonishingly smooth Albert throws, five clubs and seven rings.
All the tricks but three were the same as last year, Hill said. The big change was in performance, most importantly "moving around more and having fun."
One problem Hill had both years was missing his first attempt at his finale trick -- five club back crosses. Last year even a second attempt didn't work. This time, though, he pulled off a flash of five throws after his music had stopped.
It probably wasn't the difference in the win. He was 10 points above second place Jeff Mason. But it sure felt good to Hill to show that he could do it under the pressure of the championships. He said he has had runs of more than 200 in practice, but the stage is a different matter.
Mason, who has been juggling for six years, said, "I hope I proved that you don't have to do more than three objects to do well here."
For Mason, the excitement of juggling is discovering and experiencing new tricks. The Pittsburgh, Pa., juggler treated the audience and judges to a host of his creations with three balls, cigar boxes and the diabolo, his specialty. His finale of tossing a second diabolo onto the string and bouncing them both above his head earned him a standing ovation.
Numbers Challenge champion Dana Tison took third. The 16-year-old from Baltimore practices in a church with high ceilings, and needed that much overhead space for some of his tricks in Akron. He spiced his routine with a five ball shower, five ball back crosses, five ball Mill's Mess, seven ball neck catch, eight ring flash and a variety of club tricks.
Hill and Tison joined forces in 1985 to win the Teams Championship in Atlanta. Hill commented this year that he didn't plan to enter the Nationals again and was glad he wouldn't have to face an even more experienced Tison next year!
Other highlights of the championships included:
Total Tech. Perf. home town 1. Benji Hill 74.85 39.05 35.80 Thomasville, NC 2. Jeff Mason 64.20 30.70 33.50 Pittsburgh, PA 3. Dana Tison 62.85 34.20 28.65 Baltimore, MD 4. Larry Vaksman 60.80 35.20 25.60 Philadelphia, PA 5. Jeff Taveggia 59.69 28.84 30.85 Venice, FL 6. Robbie Weinstein 53.91 25.61 28.30 Albuquerque, NM 7. Mike Hilicki 49.38 24.88 24.50 Palatine, IL 8. Mark Richardson 47.10 19.00 28.10 Berkeley, CA 9. Lane Stewart 42.80 12.80 30.00 Cleveland, OH 10. Bob Nickerson 42.50 20.30 22.20 Gallitzin, PA
Judges: Paul Bachman, Craig Barnes, Brian Dube, Michael Kass, Scott Meltzer, Todd Smith. Timing and scoring: Paul Belanger, Adam Levine.