Not far from the frustrations of Saturday morning beach travel on Route 50, along a shady back road on the Broadneck Peninsula, sweaty adventurers from across the United States left behind the traffic and disappeared into the strangely anachronistic world of Maryland's state sport.

"Charge, sir knight," called a voice from the grandstand set up on the verdant acreage of St. Margaret's Church in Annapolis.

Then, tearing through the field, kicking up a cloud of limestone dust and grass, was a man on horseback, his head bowed, a lance resting in the crook of his arm.

Those expecting to see a face-off of skewered suits of armor would have been disappointed. This chivalric salute to medieval jousting is a solo sport that tests a rider's speed, form and aim, not his blood supply.

"Let's just get this straight," said Folger "Mack" Ridout, 79, one of the "granddaddies" of the sport who helped cement it as a Maryland icon in the 1960s. "Ninety percent of this trick is the horse. If the horse isn't any good, forget it."

But it takes more than a speedy horse to climb the ranks of ring jousting. It takes a marksman's aim to push a lance through the targets, some as small as a Lifesaver candy. And, perhaps even more important, it takes a sense of history.

A popular pastime in colonial Maryland, jousting became the state sport in 1962 -- 42 years before lacrosse became the state's official team sport. This year's event marks St. Margaret's ninth annual tournament, but the church's history with jousting goes back to Civil War times and continued through the 1930s, '40s and '50s when Ridout was a top rider.

"It was kind of different in the olden days," said Ridout, who was a parishioner when the vestry decided to nix the annual Labor Day tournament in 1958 because it was too much work to present. "Back then, only locals and their cousins, friends and relatives came. Nobody had horse trailers, so it was just the community folks."

Still, jousting is limited to those with small, speedy horses and access to the few trainers in the sport. About 75 riders are registered with Maryland's four jousting associations. Most riders ascend the ranks, coming in as children who are walked under the arches with a parent beside them, then developing into professionals like Ken Enfield of Easton: He makes it to the national competition each year.

"You have to feel good about helping people get exposure to the state sport," said Enfield, a second-generation jouster.

Enfield has been jousting for 35 of his 46 years and spends every weekend from May through October visiting jousting events throughout the mid-Atlantic region. With a handful of other families dedicated to the sport, he helps set up the courses and announce the tournaments in addition to competing.

"We joke around and call it 'the cult' and say, 'We just brought another one into the cult with us,' " said Enfield, a carpenter who lives in Easton and travels the circuit in a truck pulling a horse trailer and getting about 8 miles per gallon of gasoline. His steady winnings rarely cover the cost of gas.

But looking out across the field from the grandstand to some of the 1,000 spectators at St. Margaret's, Enfield acknowledged the greater rewards of the sport.

"Our father taught us to ride to have fun, and if it's not fun, don't do it," Enfield said. "And I'm still having fun."

David Hoffman of Fawn Grove, Pa., carries the Maryland flag as he parades on the field with other jousters. Ronnie Lauer, 18, of Queen Anne's takes aim at the ring during the jousting tournament at St. Margaret's Church in Annapolis Saturday.

Vickie Betts of Gamber, Md., waits on her horse before presenting the jousters to the crowd at St. Margaret's Church.