Creepy, brown and ready to run: the bugs were back at Palm Beach Atlantic University's Great American Bug Race on Wednesday, Nov. 17, as part of the University's Homecoming celebration.
The race, now in its 28th year, benefits the University's Science Club, said Dr. Fred Browning, associate professor of physics and director of the bug race.
|Nathan Clifford checks out the competition while Professor of Biology Dr. Gary Goss readies his bug during the Great American Bug Race on Wednesday.|
"It allows us to do our activities," Browning said, adding that without the help of sponsor Abalon Pest Services the event would not have been able to happen.
Close to a hundred students, faculty, staff and curious onlookers attended the event. Racers could purchase their bugs for 50 cents, then they were divided into heats.
Winners of the heats made it to the semifinals, where the first place winner took home $50, second place won $25 and third place received $10. From the two semifinal rounds, six finalists headed to the last race to compete for the grand prize of $100.
The day began with a prayer for the bugs' safety from PBA student and Science Club member Stephen Fowler. Dr. Ray Waldner, professor of biology, emceed the event, calling the day ideal bug racing conditions.
"I think it's very unique and a little scary for some of us," said Mary Hardin, wife of PBA President Lu Hardin. "I'm tickled at the little children who are carrying roaches in their hands."
One such child, 9-year-old Chloe Hlavenka, named her bug Lightning. "It was a cheap name, but that's all I could think of," Hlavenka said.
Contestants found many interesting names for their bugs, from Luigi and Bob, to Evil Bug Knievel and Tommy Lee Jones, to Climby and Snookie.
The preliminary heats were hotly contested, with more than one bug breaking the rules: no jumping or flying; no threatened or endangered species; no eating of other contestants; no excess bug modifications (attached wings, jet packs, etc.); and no use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
Despite the rules, many bugs fell to that most ancient of foe: the human foot. Others escaped, while some merely crumbled under the pressure, turning belly up before the race even began.
Freshman Liz Thompson accidentally squished her bug's head as she tried to catch him after a race in which it won first place. Although the bug, Ralphie, was slightly beheaded, Thompson said she wasn't concerned about her chances in the semifinals.
"He can't see the competition," Thompson said. "He's going to do really well. He's the only bug in sight."
Members of the Science Club served as judges for each heat. Adrienne Ming, a freshman at PBA, said she enjoyed this, her first bug race. "It's exciting," she said, before running after a contestant's bug who had flown from the track, "and gross at the same time!"
In the end, only one bug could take home the big prize: Dune Buggy, owned by Nathan Clifford. Nathan — son of Patrick Clifford, assistant professor of violin and director of PBA's preparatory department — won $150.
"I might spend it on Legos or give it to my parents," Nathan said, as his father urged him to save it for Christmas break.
In the end, the race was more about having a great time than winning, said Isabelle George, a freshman and member of PBA's Science Club. "Everybody hates cockroaches, and we've turned it into something that's fun," George said.
List of Winners
1st Place: Nathan Clifford (son of Patrick Clifford, assistant professor of violin and director of PBA's Preparatory Department)
2nd Place: Matt Klein, 1990 PBA graduate
3rd Place: Dr. Gary Goss, professor of biology
1st Place: Nathan Clifford
2nd Place: Matt Klein
3rd Place: Dr. Gary Goss
1st Place: Dave Fascia
2nd Place: Beverly Jean-Baptiste
3rd Place: Jared Reuter