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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Worms! E-mail
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Monday, 02 July 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Worms!

By Trish Wallace 

June 17, 2007

Bait shop entry takes the title at library event.

"On your mark, get set, squirm!"

And with that, live worms of all sizes raced to be become sole champion of the Second Annual Worm Races at the Arnold Branch of the Jefferson County Public Library on Wednesday.

The competition proved brutal from the beginning when, during the first heat, children's librarian Amy Held called out, "Oh! We have some worms crawling over worms!"

Despite the stiff competition, the worm Johnny Bowler--trained by 4-year-old Braden Bowler--pulled out the first win. 

Bowler didn't have to practice with Johnny before the race.

"He's just smart," Bowler said.  Bowler found Johnny in his grandfather's garden.

Held facilitated the event as the official judge, announcing the name of each worm and its child trainer before every qualifying heat.

Although no one could be sure, the worms radiated a hint of nervousness as each countdown began.

However, Lily Waring, 7, was confident her worm, Rose, was more excited than nervous before winning the second heat.

"When I got here she was wiggling all over my hand," Waring said.

Trainers and their parents cheered the worms on as the squiggling creatures inched their way toward the finish line in each race. Spectators crowded around the racing circle, eager to see which worms would move on to the semifinals.

To start every heat, four selected trainers placed their worms in the center of the racing mat. When the race began, the worms were to crawl to the outside of the racing circle a full 12 inches away.

The children used squirt bottles to motivate their worms to squirm in the proper directions and, at times, became over zealous with the amount of spray they applied to their racers.

"Don't use too much water," Held reminded them. "You don't want to drown your worms."

As 2-year-old Kennedy Presley patiently awaited his heat, he took particular care to get to know his worm Spike.

"He likes me! See?" Presley said as Spike inched its long body up the boy's arm.

Presley's mother said Spike had escaped fish bait.

When time for Spike's heat arrived, the worm seemed a bit sluggish from playing so long with Presley and got off to a slow start. Although it put up a tough fight, Spike lost the race to Pinkie, trained by Hailee Ostrowski, 5.

Two separate semifinal races each pitted five qualifying worms against each other. In a near photo finish, Bowler's Johnny barely beat Waring's Rose for a spot in the final.

After the win, Bowler explained Johnny's strategy.

"He was going fast," the boy said.

After a tiebreaker in the second semifinal round, River, trained by Sevrin Goodwin, 10, qualified for the final.

In the quickest worm race in Arnold library history, River took the title of champion. Three quick squirts from the spray bottle shot Goodwin's little worm across the finish line.

Goodwin found River at Judy's Bait Shop off of Telegraph in Arnold. 

Doubling the amount of participation from last year's competition, 36 children (and 36 worms) took part in Wednesday's races. None of the worms tested positive for performance enhancement drugs, however, a certain worm named Steve was disqualified after failing to report to the starting line for its heat.

After winning, Goodwin said he wanted to keep River in a case in the house to train for next year, but his mother assured him that the worm would be happier in the flower garden outside.

Fun facts about earthworms.

Worms do not have eyes but are sensitive to light. More than an hour's worth of exposure to direct light will paralyze a worm.

Worms have five hearts.

Worms breathe through their skin.

Worms can regenerate their tails but cannot grow new heads.

The longest earthworm ever recorded was found in South Africa and measured 22 feet long.

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