For Elli Graves, the third time was the charm.
The 7-year-old, a second-grader at Beaver Dam Elementary School, took the championship title Saturday, Oct. 6, in the Caneyville Fair’s annual terrapin race.
Her terrapin, “Speedy,” scampered to a first place win in the 7-to-9 years old class, netting a slot in the race for the grand championship.
The morning’s chilly temperatures made for some slow starts in the first races. The terrapins were placed in the center of a circular racecourse, with the first three to reach the boundary line declared the winners.
Some of the shellbacked athletes made fast — relatively — breaks for the far reaches of the roughly 10-foot circle, while others seemed content hang out in the center soaking up the sun’s warmth. And those heading for the finish line often would veer off course, leaving their humans frustrated as they traced the boundary line or headed back toward the starting point.
The race was broken into five age classes for the younger human competitors, one for those ages 16-30, one for those ages 31-54, and a seniors’ class. The adults’ division drew the most entries — 50 — prompting a race-off. The group was divided into two heats, with the top three finishers from each advancing to the finals.
Once all the classes had raced, the first-place finishers from the children’s races were brought back for the championship.
Fast identification of the terrapins could be made by looking at their bellies, where race organizers had labeled each with their human’s name. Some sported stickers, tape, paint and other decorations on their upper shells as well.
Speedy — his shell decorated with flowers and Elli’s name — took off fast for the finish line and never looked back. In all, he netted Elli $55 in prize money and two rosettes.
That wasn’t bad for a rescue terrapin the family got “on the road going to Mamaw and Papaw’s house,” Elli said.
She’d only had Speedy about a week before the races. Her training regimens?
“Just let him run,” she responded.
“With two kids, they learn to run fast,” mom April said, nodding toward Elli and her younger sister.
It was the third time Elli had entered the races, but her first wins.
After the races, many of the losing terrapins — and even some of the winners — were left in boxes by the side of the post office for adoption. A couple of families took several, saying they would release them in the fields near their homes.