Pit spitter sets record

Published 9:21 am Monday, July 7, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
EAU CLAIRE -- Novice Nick Cook had barely his 15 minutes of fame to savor snapping a 1998 world record before its holder, with a dramatic flair befitting the 30th anniversary of the International Cherry Pit Spit, pushed the pinnacle to dizzying new heights.
Brian "Young Gun" Krause of Dimondale, who turned 25 Sunday, began Saturday with a world-record 110 feet, 4 inches, in the freestyle spit-off among his sport's elite weapons of mass destruction, then won his fourth International Cherry Pit Spit crown at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm by setting a new record of 93 feet, 6 1/2 inches, on the day's final fling.
Spectators began speculating whether any pits might have been corked.
Krause's world record spit of 110 feet, 4 inches, was witnessed and certified by three official tournament judges: U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, state Rep. Charles LaSata; and Berrien County Circuit Judge John Hammond.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes two world records -- Brian Krause's previous longest distance under international competition rules of 72 feet, 11 inches, in 1998, and a freestyle record of about 95 feet set in Germany in 1994.
The German record holder was invited to compete in the 1994 international competition, but his best spit on the official court under international rules was a spitiful 39 feet, 11 1/2 inches.
In addition, he noted freestyle contestants are permitted numerous spits, while the international rules for sanctioned competition allow only three tries. The official international competition added the freestyle event last year to "level the playing field" in long-distance competition.
Cook, 29, a heavy equipment operator from Evergreen Park, Ill., briefly held the world mark when his 77-foot, 1-inch toss broke the previously existing competition record of 72 feet, 11 inches, set by Brian Krause in 1998. Cook's shot stood until the very last spit of the competition as the defending champion blew him away on his third and last spit of more than 93 feet.
Cook, a newcomer to the sport, gives hope to fans craving an alternative to the family feud of the Krauses and the Canadian Lessards which dominated the Pit Spit throughout the '90s.
He never spit pits before reading about the competition on the Internet. He came to Tree-Mendus, bought a carton of cherries and practiced before entering the July 5 contest.
Third place went to aging superstar Rick "Pellet Gun" Krause, 49, of Sanders, Ariz. The father of "Young Gun" Krause is seeing the next generation of pit spitters eclipse his pace-setting accomplishments of the first 25 years.
Until 1998, the senior Krause held the world record for pit spitting within officially sanctioned rules, with a 1988 spit of 72 feet, 7 1/2 inches; 1999's spit was his second-longest -- 67 feet, 2 inches -- and that year he took the crown back from Young Gun.
In 1998, Young Gun dealt his dad a double defeat by taking the championship crown and breaking Pellet Gun's longstanding world record with that spectacular spit of 72 feet, 11 inches.
Ann St. Amand, 40, of St. Joseph, successfully defended her women's division title by outdistancing challengers with a spit of 39 feet, 7 inches. She joked that she practiced for her third win by pelting her four children with pits to get them going in the morning. Amand, who also won in 1998, said picking cherries is a family Fourth of July tradition. Daughter Katie St. Amand, 4, spit 5 feet, 10 inches. Son Greg St. Amand, 11, finished third among youth 9-12 with 25 feet, 7 inches.
Amand also shared her strategy: "I thought about it a lot and then I did nothing."
Emily Rezetko, 12, of Chicago, took top honors in the age 9-12 youth competition with a distance of 33 feet, 7 1/2 inches.
Dylan Smith, 8 of Burr Ridge, Ill., won the 6- to 8-year-old competitin with a spit of 22 feet, 7 inches. Dylan also won in 2002.
Brady Krause of Dimondale, the youngest competing member of the Krause dynasty at age 5, kept the 5-and-under crown with a spit of 21 feet, 7 inches. Brian, assistant manager of the Midas muffler and auto repair shop in Okemos, and his wife, Megan, have another son, Cody, 21 months.
State Rep. Neal Nitz, R-Baroda, won the dignitaries bracket with 29 feet, 7 inches.
The Canadaian contingent, which spirited the champion's belt across the border numerous times over the years, was again eclipsed by the Krause blitz. "Gentleman Joe" Lessard, 55, of Blenheim, Ontario, finished out of the top three at 47 feet, 5 inches.
The Lessard family produced holders of both Canadian and international cherry pit spitting crowns. Joe Jr., the "Sultan of Spit," was the 1991 international champion (53 feet, 1 1/2 inches) and the 1990 and 1997 Canadian champion. "Gentleman Joe" won in 1986, 1993 and 1996, when he logged his longest shot, 71 feet, 11 1/2 inches. Joe Sr. reigned eight times as Canadian champion.
Eau Claire has just been recognized as "the Cherry Pit Spitting Capital of the World" in the July Reader's Digest.
Before the men took the asphalt court for the championship, Teichman invited spectators to pluck cherries from the trees behind them and to join in a "21-pit salute" to longtime commentator Bob Collins, the WGN radio personality who perished in a plane crash in 2000.
In Collins' memory, 25-cent qualifying fees were matched by the Teichmans to be given to Collins' favorite charity, The Salvation Army.