‘Team America’ rolls to Fourth of July glory

BRISTOL — In a blur of red, white and blue, Edgar Sherman, Connor Norland and Anna Igler flew down Main Street, flanked by crowds of flag-waving spectators all eager to see who would emerge victorious in this year’s 38th annual Great Bristol Outhouse Race.
As triumphantly as our Founding Fathers declared freedom for America on July 4, 1776, the three claimed victory as Team America in a success fitting for the day’s celebration.
“You can’t lose when freedom’s on your side,” said Sherman, a Bristol native and junior at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.
Inspired by Uncle Sam, the trio and their outhouse were a vision for any proud American. Shirtless and covered in painted-on stars and stripes, the boys pushed their patriotic outhouse and Igler — perched confidently inside — with ease.
Their all-American decor — a tribute to our troops — also won them the honor of best decorated.
“We just want to thank those who are serving and who have served in the past so that we can have moments like these,” said Sherman. “We’re enjoying the freedom that our troops have fought for.”
For Sherman and Norland, the race was just another day of competition. Norland, a Mount Abraham Union High School senior runs cross country and plays lacrosse for the Eagles.
While at Mt. Abe, Sherman played lacrosse and hockey, blocking shots as goalie for the Eagles. He now plays hockey, soccer and lacrosse, and participates in biathlons.
For both athletes, training was a no-brainer.
“Every day is a training day,” said Sherman.
Norland agreed, revealing his key to success.
“It’s as simple as ‘full send or no send,’” he asserted.
The outhouse races have been a hallmark event in Bristol’s annual Independence Day Celebration since they were introduced to the town 38 years ago.
“It all started with virtual hospital gurneys and real outhouses,” revealed announcer Shawn Oxford of Bristol.
He explained that in its first years, four people powered the outhouses around the town green, making sure to maintain balance on the sharp turns. Eventually, the outhouses proved too unsteady for the high-stakes race and safety measures were taken.
“It literally became a blood sport at one point,” he said.
Although the rules of the race changed, the stiff competition, dynasties and rivalries continue to develop with each new year.
While the Snap’s team — known for their five-year winning streak that ended in 2014 — wasn’t a competitor this year because they were unable to find runners, there were a few teams that returned to try to claim a victory.
The Village Creeme Stand, the Paradee family and Bristol Financial Services have been supporting teams for the past six years, each time with fresh determination to take home the outhouse trophy.
New to the race was the Justice League, a team campaigning for Sen. Patrick Leahy. In an effort to spread awareness about their campaign, the group donned capes and participated in the Bristol parade later that day.
“We’re fighting for Vermont values, economic and social justice, we’re the Vermont Justice League,” said Jay Tilton, media contact for Sen. Leahy and a fierce competitor in the race.
In his tights and cape, Tilton was ready for the race, despite a lack of training.
“I haven’t been for a run in a very long time,” he said. “But we’re optimistic. We’re just here to experience it and it’s been so much fun.”
Although confident, the Justice League was no competition for Team America in heat one.
Despite a hefty loss, Tilton remained in good spirits.
“If you lose to Team America on Independence Day, that’s not a loss,” he said. “That’s a victory for America right there.”
“They’re winning the whole thing,” he added, foreshadowing the final results.
In their second year racing, Mt. Abe sophomores Kevin Pearsall and Nevin Jemison pushed Roman Mayer to the toilet paper finish line to win heat two. Representing the Mt. Abe Junior Varsity Football Team, the trio coasted in, followed closely by the Paradee Family team.
The Village Creeme Stand team — known for breaking the Snap’s record in 2014 — couldn’t keep up with this year’s competition and brought up the rear.
In heat three, the Bristol Financial Services team sped past the Three Day Stampede and the Vergennes Lion Club for an easy win.
Bristol Financial Services had recruited Mt. Abe seniors Coleman Russell and Chris Wood to push Mt. Abe junior Bailey Allard. The boys are members of the Mt. Abe baseball team that won the D-II Championships this past June.
Allard was confident the boys would push her to yet another victory in the finals.
“They’ve won the one championship, they can win another,” she said.
The Vergennes Lions Club team, ranging from 52 years old to 64 years old, was not dismayed by their last-place finish. Instead, Chuck Burkins, Paul Bessette and Gary Russell are already planning a new design for their outhouse next year.
“We finished! It was a win all around,” exclaimed Bessette.
Burkins agreed and revealed his predictions for next year.
“I think we may have the oldest team again,” he said.
In the last preliminary heat, the Mt. Abe Football Alum team, Hatch 31 and Good Point Recycling fought until the finish in a race that was far too close to call.
As all three barreled through the finish line together, a Football Alum member looked to the Good Point Recycling team, uncertain of the results.
“Who won, I think you guys did,” he yelled across the crowd.
In the end, an instant replay determined that the Good Point Recycling team of Fletcher Johnston, Ronnie Metcalf and Crystal Johnston had in fact won the heat.
The finals were stacked, each team ready to take home another victory. Team America, Bristol Financial Services, Mt. Abe JV Football and Good Point Recycling lined up amid the cheers of a crowd that had grown with the start of each race.
At “go,” Team America exploded forward, followed by Bristol Financial Servies, JV Football and finally, Good Point Recycling.
It was an easy win for Team America and an incentive to return for next year’s race.
“We’ll definitely be back to win again,” announced Sherman.

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