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Photo by John Sherman/Sun Newspapers Sara Otto has competed at all levels of horseshoe pitching since returning to the game in 2006.

From Wadena to the World Tournament

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Sara Otto has found the shoes she likes.

The 1995 Wadena-Deer Creek grad has been making a name for herself in local, state and world horseshoe pitching competition as a member the Bloomington Horseshoe Club.

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Otto is vice president of the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota by day but when the working day is done, the pitching begins. In addition to being a member of the Bloomington Club, Otto is a regional director and member for the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association and a member of the Minnesota Gopher State Horseshoe Pitchers Association.

"It's a competitive sport and it's a sport for all ages," Otto said.

Otto began pitching horseshoes when she was a kid growing up in Wadena. Recreation Director Nellie Wegsheid started a junior league in 1988 and Otto was one of the 18 boys and girls that joined. Wegscheid remembers her as kid who showed up and practiced diligently.

"They were good kids," Wegscheid said. "They were always ready to practice and work at it."

Practice is what it all boils down to in horseshoes.

Wegscheid recalled a state tournament in Wadena one year where she watched the pitchers create a depression in the pit by consistently hitting the same spot.

Otto also played basketball and softball in Wadena but after leaving her hometown she forgot about horseshoes until one day when she was visiting a Brainerd resort with friends and they chanced upon some horseshoe courts. They had so much fun they decided to join the Bloomington club for an activity after work. Otto is the only one of the group still in there pitching.

Her success in the sport has been meteoric. She started out with a 6 percent ringer percentage in 2006. She doubled that in 2007 and took sixth in the Class J world competition in Ardmore, Okla.

In 2008 she had a 31.65 ringer percentage and competed in five local tournaments. She was a state champ in her class that year.

Otto returned from a trip to Springfield, Ill. in 2009 as the World Class G champion with a 52.33 ringer percentage and a perfect 15-0 record.

She had a 53 percent ringer percentage and a 14-1 record when she won the World Women's Class D title in 2010.

Otto just finished fifth in July at the Women's Class C Division of the World Tournament in Monroe, La.

Otto is preparing to compete in a winter league in order to keep her pitching skills sharp.

So how do you toss those ringers?

"It's a balance between thinking about it and not thinking about it," Otto laughed. "I strive for consistency."

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