Sporting a purple and orange body suit, Marshall Keeton ’14 from the Chi Phi Pledges’ team was declared the 2011 Fall Nationals winner after pulling ahead in the last stretch of the final heat against Hobart Dean Eugen Baer HON’07, P’95, P’97. Earning bragging rights for the next year, Keeton notes, “I had no idea if I’d win but as the race went on, I just started expecting that it would happen.”
Traditionally held on William Smith Hill, the 2011 Fall Nationals invited Family and Homecoming Weekend attendees to partake in the pre-game “Barnburner” Tailgate Lunch while experiencing the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat as Fall Nationals 2011 raced down William Smith Hill toward the barn.
Eight teams of Hobart men competed in the race down the hill: Soeren Wacker ’14 of Hattstedt, Germany, representing Rotaract Club; Keaton ’14; Drew Coogan ’12, driving for the Chi Phi brothers; Andrew Zenger ’14, representing the Geneva Hall dormitory; Christopher Pope ’14 from Delta Chi; Darren Smith ’12, representing the Druids; Alexander Beyer ’13 of Tubingen, Germany, representing Odell’s unit 48; and Amil Shah ’12 representing Bampton House. Hobart Dean Eugen Baer, with the support of the Hobart Deans Office, also competed in this year’s Fall Nationals.
Among this year’s competitors was one William Smith student, Kaylyn O’Brien ’12, who was driving her cart for Hope House, a theme house devoted to raising awareness and volunteering for the cause of curing cancer. O’Brien, who is the first William Smith student to race in Fall Nationals since the 1980s, was excited and ready to race with the help of teammate Jess McCue ’12. “We did a test run last night; two out of three were successful,” says O’Brien.
“We’re here to have fun, but, really, I’m here to win,” adds McCue. “We practiced, prepared and carbo-loaded. We’re ready.”
Composed of four rounds, racers went head-to-head until only two were left standing. In the preliminary round, O’Brien got an early lead and claimed victory while Zenger was left to wheel himself across the finish line. Coogan, driving Chi Phi’s 2010 cart, blew past Beyer, winning himself a spot in the second round. In the third heat, Baer finished unchallenged as Pope lost control in the home stretch, crashing into the hay bales before finishing the race on his feet. In the final heat, the Chi Phi pledges hurtled down the hill, leaving Shah to wheel himself over the finish line after losing momentum in the final stretch.
In the second round, Baer got an early lead, gaining momentum as he rounded the second curve and beating Wacker by more than five car lengths, prompting Grounds Manager Dave Iannicello to note, “Eugen is so good that he can turn around and watch everybody.” In the second heat, O’Brien’s cart proved unwieldy in the home stretch, leaving the Chi Phi brothers to claim victory.
In the third round, Baer was challenged by Smith, but the Druids’ car proved slow as Baer sped past it to claim his place in the final round. Pitting pledge against brother, Chi Phi saw an epic battle as Keeton challenged Coogan for a spot in the final round. While Coogan’s car – made from a handtruck – was fast, Keeton’s more aerodynamically-sound car helped him claim victory.
In the final round, anticipation hung heavy in the air as “the venerable Dean Baer” prepared to square off against Keeton in a final battle for bragging rights. Getting a slow start, Baer took an early lead as the two racers came off the first turn. Rounding the second turn, Baer maintained his lead but Keeton was close on his tail. As the two racers came into the home stretch, Keeton’s cart slowly gained momentum, pulling ahead of Baer in the final seconds of the race. The last second win caused the crowd to erupt in cheers as yet another Fall Nationals came to a close.
A long-standing tradition at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Fall Nationals began in the late 1970s. In addition to the derby-which requires entered vehicles only to have wheels with some sort of braking and steering mechanisms-the event has been known to include tug-of-war and pie eating contests.