Fleet of feet: Flint, Page set lobster crate race recordsDarkness halts Maine Lobster Festival event as 6,500 crates traversed
Rockland — Come to find out, running across a string of lobster crates tied between two docks in the chilly Atlantic Ocean is not as difficult as it may appear — or sound.
Well, for Scarlett Flint, 7, of Warren and Harrison Page, 9, of South Berwick, that may be true as the two featherweights, who weigh 75 pounds or less, proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are heavyweights at running the crates.
And, as it turns out, only darkness could stop the athletic, fleet-of-foot youngsters from continuing their record runs on Sunday, Aug. 3 and from potentially setting more impressive standards for future racers to chase.
Wait, if one listens carefully, perhaps the echos of their small feet running across the water can still be heard following a marathon session at the Maine Lobster Festival's popular Great International Lobster Crate Race.
When officials "called" off the event, Flint and Page were the new dual-record holders with an amazing 6,500 crates.
And the youngsters probably would still be running if night fall, and darkness engulfing Rockland Harbor, could have been prevented.
The two broke the previous event record of 6,000 by Connor McGonagle of Owls Head set a few years ago
The year's event, again organized by Sy and Alex Knight, began at 2 p.m. and was "called" at 8 p.m. It is believed to be the longest crate race, in length of time, in history.
Watch video below.
Defending champion Duncan Widdecombe, 12, of South Thomaston finished as runner-up with 5,100 crates.
Austin Northgraves, 17, of Scarborough won the medium weight title with 318 crates and Ben Hillyard, 45, of Durham, N.H. the supersize crown with 20 crates.
All but a select few of the 90-plus participants could master the difficult technique of running the gauntlet, from dock to dock, across 50 wooden lobster crates that tantalizingly sat on top of the water.
The feet of the fastest seemed to keep them on top of the crates and out of the water.
As had been the case in recent years, the 2014 title came down to a handful of participants, including local stalwarts McGonagle and Widdecomb, and several other youngsters, from near and far, who participated in a runoff at the end of the regular competition.
Only this year a few of the participants, led by Flint and Page, decided to work overtime. And then work a little longer.
The popular event, held on the final day of the five-day festival, was part of the 67th Maine Lobster Festival on the city's harbor.
Contestants usually participate in four divisions: Featherweight (up to 75 pounds), lightweight (76-125), medium weight (126-175) and supersize or heavyweight (176 and heavier).
The lighter weight runners often do the best because they stay on top of the wooden crates, while the heavier runners make the crates sink and, at some point, it feels like they are running in quick sand.
A year older and a little heavier also usually are added obstacles for the youngsters who return year after year to try their luck at the watery gauntlet.
After completing 500 crates each earlier in the competition, participants are given a break, but return later to keep running the crates. Then, at the end of the competition, the remaining participants — those who have not fallen, have a runoff, or showdown, as they did again this year.
This year, most of the participants ultimately ended up taking a dip in the cold waters of Rockland Harbor on a beautiful summer day.
The task for the contestants was to jump off a slippery dock and traverse 50 lobster crates strung together and tied to another dock about 150 feet away. And repeat.
Fast feet, tremendous balance, incredible stamina and a never-quit attitude is the yearly formula for success.
Two years ago, McGonagle set what was believed, at the time, an unbeatable standard with 6,000 crates, which beat the previous record of 4,501 by Andrew Bachiochi of Stafford Springs, Conn. in 2008.
McGonagle also brought the record for the Midcoast-invented activity back to the area. Prior to Bachiochi holding the mark, the late Susan Lundquist, who grew up locally, held the mark of 3,007 for decades and Shane LeBlanc, another Midcoast native, held the record before her.
Smaller, lighter in weight and tremendous quickness — combined with stamina — are the key ingredients for success on crossing the tops of the crates. That is why the older, heavier competitors struggle getting across the crates — namely, because any significant weight makes the crates sink.
The challenge always is to scamper across the string of 50 floating crates. As the official Maine Lobster Festival program states, "Lobster crate racing requires speed, quick feet, balance and, above all else, the ability to withstand a dunking in the chilly Maine waters, since most competitors do end up in the drink."
Inevitably, exhaustion takes over and the water wins.
On Sunday, as in recent year, most participants ran in socks for traction.
Some of the youngsters who fell on top of the crates actually tried to finish by crawling across them, most to no avail.
Two years after McGonagle and Widdecombe battled late into the afternoon for the 2012 title, and 24 months after McGonagle smashed the previous event record of 4,501 crates when he crossed 6,000 crates, the two Midcoast youngsters were at it again, as they, and new, younger generation, kept hundreds of fans mesmerized with their watery crossings, their back-an-forth of the crates tied to the docks in Rockland Harbor.
Last year, when the final crate had been crossed, Widdecombe, then 11, was the first-place finisher with 2,100 crates. McGonagle, then 13, placed second at 1,645 crates.
Two years ago, Widdecombe finished second with 2,000 crates crossed as McGonagle set the record with 6,000 crates.
The event has been held since the mid-1970s when it got its start in Spruce Head. It was its own event before becoming part of the Maine Lobster Festival years ago.
Bachiochi set the new standard in 2008 with 4,501 crates. And he really did not fall in the water but simply stepped on the 4,501st crate and tossed himself into the ocean. At the time, Bachiochi surpassed the record of 3,007 set in the 1980s by Lundquist.
Now youngsters named Page and Flint share the mark with an impressive, even eye-popping 6,500 crates.
If event officials are smart, they will start next year's crate race early in the morning to give Page and Flint, and undoubtedly a few others, more time to work their foot magic.
A complete list of competitors with ages, home towns and number of crates crossed, includes: Vaugh Sasek, 9, Tyngsboro, Mass., 5 crates; Olivia Sasek, 12, Tyngsboro, Mass., 13; Isabel Gabriel, Tyngsboro, Mass., 17; Joey McNeil, 10, Lexington, Mass., 5; Madison McNeil, 8, Lexington, Mass., 39; David McNeil, 45, Lexington, Mass., 7; Barbara Kelley, 47, Hampton Falls, N.H., 4; Austin Pagano, 12, Rockland, 141; Sophie Kingston, 9, Nashua, N.H., 29; Olivia Kingston, 11, Nashua, N.H., 23; Cassie Jasso, 24, Los Angeles, Calif., 5; Ryker Weaver, Rockland, 77; Sterling Rose, 40, Nashua, N.H., 17; Mariah Grindle, 13, Waldoboro, 48; Cassi Smeltzer, 12, Waldoboro, 11; Calub Morris, 11, Turner, 8; Braden Benner, 9, South Thomaston, 87; Lydia McKenzie, 9, Mount Vernon, Ohio, 6; Brodey Benner, 6, South Thomaston, 42; Presley Morris, 6, Turner, 4; Aleah Daniel, 9, Cushing, 10; Nick Daniel, 12, Cushing, 18; Peter Tschaikowsky, Mendon, Vt., 15; Samantha Calamari, 18, Owls Head, 6; Finnegan Lynch, 11, Rockland, 145; Ryan Lynch, 10, Rockland, 194; Alice Richards, 11, Concord, N.H., 6; Daniel Beliveau, 21, Montreal, 5; Madeline Goodman, 11, Delaware, Ohio, 6; Connor Lavoie, 19, Yarmouth, 7; Dylan Sullivan, 9, Walpole, Mass., 24; Todd Carballo, 39, Rockland, 68; Scarlett Flint, 7, Warren, 6,500; Timothy Sullivan, 11, Walpole, Mass., 80; Abby Waterman, 9, South Thomaston, 9; Leah Waterman, 10, South Thomaston, 7; Erik Waterman, 35, South Thomaston, 5; Nick Frontin, 16, South Thomaston, 75; Will Huber, 15, Cushing, 80; Harrison Page, 9, South Berwick, 6,500; Dan Huber, 13, Cushing, 74; Erin Dugan, 14, St. George, 12; Sydney Page, 11, South Berwick, 128; Katherine Page, 13, South Berwick, 173; Bill Page, 51, South Berwick, 6; Andrew Cook, 39, Hollis, 6; Chad Bolster, 21, Rockland, 44; Brandon Jimenez-Roberts, 21, 179; Edwin Robinson, 12, Alexandria, Va., 3; Erik Larkin, 13, Alexandria, Va., 60; Carter Fogarty, 12, Rockland, 198; Taylor Crosby, 16, Rockport, 58; Alex Fogarty, 13, Rockland, 92; Aiden Abbottoni, 7, Rockland, 52; Zac Winpenny, 11, Rockland, 206; Nicholas Tavernakis, 10, Cushing, 7; Nick Tavernakis, 38, Cushing, 6; Grace Carias, 16, Rockland, 93; Matt Smith, 17, Belfast, 6; Brian Corriveau, 36, Rockland, 13; Michael Corriveau, 6, Rockland, 21; Duncan Widdecombe, 12, South Thomaston, 5,100; Will Eaton, 11, South Thomaston, 78; Austin Northgraves, 17, Scarborough, 318; Noelle Carroll, 12, Newark, Del., 7; Grace Carroll, 9, Newark, Del., 8; Carol Wright, 138; Meghan McGonagle, 16, Owls Head, 50-plus; Connor McGonagle, 14, number unavailable; Jensen Willis, 14, Warren, 28; Cadisen Willis, 19, Warren, 40; Hunter Baughman, 18, Warren, 15; Makian Johnson, 12, Hudson, Fla., 120; Micki Johnson, 37, Hudson, Fla., 54; Finn Kaeyer, 8, Owls Head, number unavailable; Megan Kaeyer, 11, Wilton, Conn., number unavailable; Ryan Calamari, 15, Owls Head, 23; Tate Nadeau, 9, McPherson, Kansas, 5; Paul Ersing, 7, Wells, 100; Erik Larson, 9, Dover, N.H., 3; Josh Larson, 9, Dover, N.H., 4; Alexander Gillman, 12, New York, N.Y., 178; Keegan Wyman, 14, Rotonda, Fla., 10; Zachary Gilbert, 7, Rockport, 18; Ben Hillyard, 45, Durham, N.H., 20; Jordan Hillyard, 13, Durham, N.H., 8; Madison Hillyard, 16, Durham, N.H., 10; Eric Matthews, 28, Morrill, 8; Ben Spooner, 17, Marlboro, Mass., 8; Owen Dakin, 8, Windham, 90; and Monique Dakin, 9, Windham, 42.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media nearly 35 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon, who lives in North Carolina.
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