70th annual Maine Lobster Festival

Facing lobster crate gauntlet, O'Hanlon, Flint duel on Penobscot Bay

Running for crustacean glory, O'Hanlon edges three-time defending champion and co-record holder Flint
By Ken Waltz | Aug 07, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Scene from the Great International Lobster Crate Race on Aug. 6 in Rockland, part of the 70th anniversary of the Maine Lobster Festival.

Rockland — Coming face to face with the little queen of the lobster crates cannot be easy, but, at the ripe old age of 9, Graidey O'Hanlon did just that — and, somehow, someway, even managed to stare down the Midcoast racing dynamo and never blink.

O'Hanlon, 9, of Havertown, Pa. finished first in the always-popular Maine Lobster Festival Great International Lobster Crate Race, as he crossed a few more crates then three-time defending champion and co-record holder Scarlett Flint, 10, of Warren.

On a glorious Sunday afternoon, Aug. 6, as part of the 70th annual Maine Lobster Festival, O'Hanlon crossed 905 crates and Flint 815.

Click for photos from this event.

Eighty-three hardy souls tried their hand — make that feet — at the gauntlet of lobster crates.

When the ripples in the water from final splash landing into Penobscot Bay had subsided, O'Hanlon was the overall winner with 905 crates crossed as he and Flint finished first and second in the featherweight division — and overall — with 905 and 815 respectively.

Diesel Sullivan, 12, of East Walpole, Mass., finished first in the lightweight division with 236 crates, while Lauren Jacob, 19, of Los Altos, Calif. was second in the division at 58.

In the medium weight division, Tim Sullivan of East Walpole, Mass., was first at 141 and Brian Corriveau, 39, of Rockland second at 12.

In the super tough supersize division, Taylor Crosby of Rockport was first at 65 and James Carmichael, 33, of Canton, Mass., second at 22.

A handful of other locals tried their luck at the crates before the regular registered competitors, including area first responders, Coast Guard personnel, police and fire and even this year's Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess Haylie Witham.

There were even spectators who held signs with numbers on them to indicate the level of the fall/dive into the water. It was as if they were judging a diving competition.

It was a picture perfect summer day to run the crates and, for most, more likely than not, take an unexpected — but should-have-been-expected — dip in the always chilly waters of Penobscot Bay.

Avoiding that fall was the quest of one and all, the fast and slow, big and small, young and old.

Flint finished first the past three years, crossing 1,500 crates in 2016 and a record 6,500 in 2015.

Flint and Harrison Page, then age 9, of South Berwick, set the event's all-time record with an amazing 6,500 crates apiece four years ago. Flint was age 7 that year, then, at age 8 two years ago, she finished first alone at 3,000 crates.

Then, last summer, at the ripe old age of 9, Flint crossed 1,500 more crates to give her 11,000 total for three years of work — which essentially meant she had run about 6.25 miles over the water of Rockland Harbor during that time span.

She added 815 more this year to bring her four-year total to 11,815 crates, perhaps the most of any one individual ever (although Connor McGonagle and Duncan Widdecombe both crossed a bunch in their heydays).

The lobster crate race, watched by hundreds along the festival grounds, employs participants to combine lightning-quick feet and incredible endurance to seemingly traverse across the water of Rockland Harbor.

Participants run back and forth across a string of 50 wooden lobster crates tied between docks in Penobscot Bay.

The event is held on the final day of the five-day festival, this year the 70th Maine Lobster Festival, on the city's harbor. The event is organized by Sy and Alex Knight, with plenty of help from the rest of the Knight family, most notably Celia.

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.

Four years ago, Page and Flint dueled across the 6,500 crates. Darkness fell about six hours or so after the 2014 event began and officials halted the runs and declared both co-champions.

That event began at 2 p.m. and was "called" at 8 p.m. It was believed to be the longest crate race, in length of time, in history.

The end came much earlier this Sunday on a glorious summer afternoon, there was plenty of sunlight remained.

A rule for the event, which often includes entire families trying their luck at running the lobster crate gauntlet, sped up the proceedings, namely, that if a competitor fell and landed on two knees or off the crates and into the water, their run was complete. If the competitor fell on the crates and only one knee touched, they were allowed to continue.

The lighter competitors often fall on one or two knees and the crates do not sink, thus, in the past, it allowed those youngster to continue, even crawl on hands and knees, if they could.

All but a select few of the 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.

This year, most of the participants ultimately ended up taking a dip in the cold waters of Rockland Harbor, many shortly after their journeys began.

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.

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 years, most participants ran in socks for traction.

Four years ago, Flint and Page, who both weighed 75 pounds or less, proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they were heavyweights at running the crates.

And, as it turned out, only darkness could stop the athletic, fleet-of-foot youngsters from continuing their record runs and from potentially setting more impressive standards for future racers to chase.

When officials "called" off the event, Flint and Page were the new dual-record holders with an amazing 6,500 crates.

The two broke the previous record of 6,000 crates by McGonagle of Owls Head.

Several years ago, McGonagle set what was believed, at the time, an unbeatable standard with 6,000 crates, which surpassed the previous record of 4,501 by Andrew Bachiochi of Stafford Springs, Conn. in 2008.

McGonagle also brought the record for the Midcoast-created 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.

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 Flint and Page share the mark with an impressive, eye-popping 6,500 crates.

2017 individual results

A complete list of competitors with ages, home towns and number of crates crossed, includes: Gavin Sullivan, 7, East Walpole, Mass., 2; Wyatt Pollis, 9, Rockland, 2; Owen Griffin, 7, Meredith, N.H., 2; Liam Feeley, 8, Rockland, 2; Paige Grant, 12, Madbury, N.H., 2; Ava Bonner, 9, Madbury, N.H., 2; Maddox Young, 6, Tenants Harbor, 2; Phinn Oliver, 8, Rockland, 2; Brody Douglas, 7, Rockland, 3; Aveny Bell, 7, Austin, Texas, 3; Jacob Kurr, 14, Spruce Head, 3; Zachary Friend, 15, Nobleboro, 3; Marina Young, 11, Tenants Harbor, 3; Jennifer Sullivan, 38, East Walpole, Mass., 4; Andy Carmichael, 33, East Walpole, 4; Meredith Borden, 16, Sherborn, Mass., 4; Lucas Loeschner, 33, Vienna Austria, 4; Cooper Seidner, 12, Wake Forest, N.C., 4; Edward Sundors, 33, Arlington, Va., 4; Trisha Griffin, 31, Meredith, N.H., 4; Courtney Allen, 24, Augusta, 4; Jon Jacob, 54, Los Altos, Calif., 4; Nan Jacob, 52, Los Altos, Calif., 4; Emma Comparato, 12, Rockland, 4; Fyona Skidmore, 7, South Thomaston, 4; Cole MacDonald, 14, Spruce Head, 4; John Harrington, 27, Owls Head, 4; Lawrence Friend III, 12, Nobleboro, 4; Dawn Borden, 45, Sherborn, Mass., 5; Monique Dakin, 12, Windham, 5; Daniel Balatowski, 15, New Paltz, N.Y., 5; Mark Harrington, 31, Takwila, Wash., 5; Rachel Kinney, 8, Thomaston, 6; Jessica Sheppard, 17, Windham, 6; Andy McGuinness, 57, Danbury, Conn., 6; Jerry Johnson, 14, Rockland, 6; Jay Dobbin, 33, Maine, 6; Alivia Kurr, 13, Maine, 6; Madison Smith, 15, Vero Beach, Fla., 6; Gerald Carmichael, 65, Canton, Mass., 7; Kassie Audette, 31, Ellsworth, 7; Jensen Wills, 17, Warren, 7; Alex Nimon, 32, Thomaston, 8; Amanda Borden, 15, Sherborn, Mass., 8; Mariah Grindle, 16, Waldoboro, 8; Alyssa Grindle, 11, 8; Kurt Honeywell, Lakewood, Colo., 8; Philip Russomano Jr., 38, Thomaston, 8; Cadisen Willis, 22, Warren, 8; Owen Smith, 8, Carmel, 8; Sophie Bell, 9, Austin Texas, 8; Josh Drinkwater, 34, Rockland, 8; Jordan Arteggy, 15, Warren, 9; Olivia Nixon, 12, Utica N.Y., 9; Sy Knight, Thomaston, 12; Brian Corriveau, 39, Rockland, 12; Grace Carias, 19, Rockland, 12; Kylee Darlin, 8, Windham, 12; Adam Audette, 32, Ellsworth, 13; Allan Gardiner, 25, Rockport, 12; Christopher Knight, 25, Owls Head, 13; Katherine Jacob, 16, Los Altos, Calif., 13; Vicki Sheppard, 25, Windham, 14; Nate Fogarty, 12, Rockland, 14; James Carmichael, 33, Canton, 22; Corbin Farnham, 14, Thomaston, 30; Michael Corriveau, 9, Rockland, 40; Jackson Russomano, 8, Thomaston, 43; Cadence Anderson, 10, Thomaston, 46; Skyler Flint, 8, Warren, 54; Sydney Page, 14, South Brewer, 55; Ryan Lynch, 13, Rockland, 55; Katherine Page, 16, South Brewer, 58; Lauren Jacob, 19, Los Altos, Calif., 58; Taylor Crosby, Rockport, 65; Ellen Russomano, 11, Thomaston, 69; Caden Kennedy, 11, Wallinford, Conn., 90; T. Sullivan, East Walpole, Mass, 141; Harrison Page, 12, South Brewer, 155; Diesel Sullivan, 12, East Walpole, Mass., 236; Scarlett Flint, 10, Warren, 815; and Graidey O'Hanlon, 9, Havertown, Pa., 905.

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