Published: Nov 21, 2012 05:20 PM
Modified: Nov 21, 2012 05:21 PM
Among the things pumpkins are best suited for are pie, jack-o-lanterns, and flinging as far as you can.
A team of Chapel Hill High School students traveled to Bridgeville, Del., early this month to compete in the annual World Championshp Punkin Chunkin Contest.
They came home not only with the title of “Lords of the Gourd,” but with a new world record to boot.
More than 100 teams from all over the nation converged on the farm field site with their catapults, air cannons and other devices designed to hurl 4 and a half -pound pumpkins as far as possible, which turns out to be almost unimaginably far; the current overall world record, set in 2008 with an air cannon, is 4,483 feet, well over three-quarters of a mile.
The competitors vie for the “Lord of the Gourd” crown in categories classified by age and type of device. The Chapel Hill High team, Galen Kirkpatrick, Hastings Greer, Jonathan Siekierski, Kathryn Peneyra, Daniel Margolis, Alex Cecil and Cat McKeon, spent much of its summer and fall building and fine-tuning a trebuchet, a type of catapult developed during the Middle Ages that uses a heavy counterweight to propel a projectile long distances.
The Chapel Hill team raised funds through a crowd-sourcing website and learned carpentry and welding skills to design and construct its trebuchet, a fearsome machine 28 feet high that they dubbed “The Whomping Willow.”
“Watching my students diligently pursue a goal – with both passion and focus – is one of the great rewards of my job,” said Chapel Hill High Principal Melodie Parrish. “This team has worked very hard and our school is 100 percent behind them.”
The Whomping Willow team practiced and refined its mechanism and then headed north with it to the cornfield in Delaware for the competition.
Kari Byron, Grant Imahar and Tory Bellici of the popular “Mythbusters” show served as hosts.
Among Chapel Hill’s eight opponents was a formidable team from New Tripoli, Pa., who set the Youth Trebuchet world record in 2011 with their machine called “Stomach Virus” and were back to defend their title.
Each team got three throws, or “chunks.” The Whomping Willow got off to a terrible start, scratching on its first try and managing just 63 feet on its second, easily the shortest toss of the first two rounds. Meanwhile, Stomach Virus bested its own world record with a chunk of 1,126 feet on its very first throw.
It was all down to the third and final try. This time, everything worked flawlessly. The Whomping Willow slung its pumpkin a stunning 1,527 feet, shattering the world record by more than 400 feet.
You can watch the local team in action Thursday night, Nov. 22, when The Science Channel airs a two-hour “Punkin Chunkin” special at 8 p.m.
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