NEWRY — Fifty couples braved rough terrain and muddy water at Sunday River’s 17th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship on Saturday, all for the chance to win the competing woman’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cash.
Team Storey, with Elliot and Giana Storey of Westbrook, took first place with a qualifying heat time of 59.18 seconds.
Second place went to Team Blue Ridge with Jake and Kirsten Barney of Lexington, Virginia, whose qualifying heat time was 1 minute, 2.81 seconds.
Having the two best times among the 50 competing couples, the top two teams ran a final heat to determine the champion. The Storeys completed the course with a time of 57.75 seconds in the championship heat, and the Barneys were hot on their heels with a time of 58.52 seconds.
Both couples won the carried woman’s weight in beer, which equated to 11 12-packs for both couples. The Storeys also won $665, and qualified for the world championship wife-carrying competition in Sonkajarvi, Finland, next summer.
The Storeys also took home medals for winning the Clydesdale division, meaning they had the best time among couples whose combined weight exceeded 350 pounds.
The top two couples both had experience under their belts — this year was the Storeys’ fourth time competing. The Barneys took first place in the Wyoming wife-carrying competition on the Fourth of July this year.
Sharon Stark and Scott Stevenson of Team Stevenson also took home medals for having the best time among couples with a combined age of 80 or higher, and finished the course in 1 minute and 22 seconds.
The competing men carried their chosen partners with either an Estonian carry, in which the woman is slung over the man’s shoulders and holds onto his waist with her hands and wraps her legs around his neck, or a chicken carry, where the woman sits on his shoulders.
The course contained three major obstacles to overcome. The first was made up of thick logs creating a hurdle with a height of roughly 3 feet. The second was a muddy watering hole, knee-deep for most competitors, and the third obstacle was a mound of soft sand, approximately 4 feet tall.
Not only did the air buzz with adrenaline and competitive natures for the audience to enjoy, there was abundant romance for the clustered viewers to see. Eric Lizotte and Talia McKay of Team Awesome Possum were due to get married the next day, so Eric was extra careful and carried Talia on his shoulders.
There was also an unexpected surprise at the finish line. After Alex Gauvin of Team Gauvin finished the race, he got down on one knee and proposed to teammate Casey Maynard.
With teary eyes, she said yes, and the happy couple kissed to the sound of wild cheers and applause from the enthusiastic audience.
In a show of friendship and sportsmanship, Robin and Steven Gahan of Team Not the Moynihans, and Megan and Patrick Moynihan of Team Country Roads crossed the line together with Steven and Patrick holding hands and Megan and Robins’ hands linked together behind them.
The sport of wife-carrying originated in Finland in the 19th century, when men would steal wives from neighboring villages and carry them over jagged rocks and wooded swamps to famous thief Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, just to prove themselves as worthy members of his gang. Today, wife-carrying is practiced all over the world and even has its own category in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The day leading up to the competition was filled with activities for everyone, not just couples. The slope side of South Ridge Lodge was swarmed with tents and vendors sporting food, drinks, face-painting, pony rides, a bounce house and a rock wall.