Slow and steady

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Maija Brown, 11, of Grady lowers her turtle into the starting gate during the Great Turtle Race Saturday at the Curry County Fair.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ Staff Writer

Kolter DeFoor’s turtle wasn’t bad, considering he just picked it up on the road.

The mango-sized box turtle won the 17-year-old Clovis boy $340 during Saturday’s Great American Turtle Race.

Part of the Curry County Fair, the race drew in about 148 entries at the Kevin Roberts Show Arena, according to race official Jan Yonge.

The turtles competed in several elimination rounds until only four remained in the final round.

Each round consisted of four turtles that raced each other from the middle of a 78-square-foot ring.

The turtle that makes it out of the circle first wins its owner $20.

In the final round, or heat, the prize money goes up to $300 for first place, $200 for second place, $125 for third place and $75 for fourth place.

Yonge said the turtles entered in the race must be captured in the wild and can’t be kept as pets.

DeFoor said he knew his turtle, “Bob,” was fit for racing the first time he saw it. He said he was driving in Fort Sumner last week while visiting his grandfather when he said the prize-winning turtle scampering in his path.

“It was moving pretty fast,” he said.

DeFoor said he wasn’t surprised when his entry was the first to make it out of the ring in the final race.

“I was telling everybody he was going to win,” he said.

Since capturing his turtle DeFoor said he has been chasing it around the his house to prepare it for the race.

“I had to get him in shape,” he said.

While the owners won money during the race, the turtles won something too: Their freedom.

“(The turtle race) is a way to have fun without hurting the turtle,” Yonge said.

Sterling Muse crossed his fingers and watched with silent anxiety as his turtle, “Samantha,” raced against three other turtles during the final round of the race.

The 8-year-old Clovis boy’s parents, on the other hand, drowned out the sound of the livestock in the stalls next to the arena with their cheers for the mango-sized box turtle.

Scott Muse, Sterling’s father, said his son competed in last year’s race but never made it past one round. This year, his turtle placed second in all rounds, earning a spot in the final race.

Muse said he was pleasantly surprised when his turtle took second place.