Three in a row for pit-spitting champ Krause

Published 6:52 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
EAU CLAIRE -- After five international titles, including the last three in a row, and his nearest competitor 15 feet behind, Brian "Young Gun" Krause, 26 today, is ready to rest on his laurels and wait for endorsement offers to roll in.
Are you listening, Cherry Coke?
Herb Teichman lengthened the official court at Tree-Mendus Fruit west of Indian Lake by 20 feet to accommodate the sport's first family at the 31st annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship Saturday.
But the expansion proved unnecessary, as Krause "only" needed 88 feet, 2 inches, on his first try to again eclipse Nick Cook, 30, a heavy equipment operator from Evergreen Park, Ill., who hurled a Montmorency pit 73 feet, 2 inches.
Third went to Tom Westgate, 59, of Holt, a state police retiree who now operates Progressive Surveillance and is an authorized Fleetboss dealer.
Reader's Digest, in its July 2003 edition, recognized Eau Claire as the "cherry pit spitting capital of the world."
The Pit Spit originated in downtown Dowagiac during Ridiculous Days, the forerunner to Fun Fest.
Cook enjoyed 15 minutes of fleeting fame last summer with a spit of 77 feet, 1 inch, which broke the previous mark of 72 feet, 11 inches, Brian Krause set in 1998 (he also won in 1994) and stood until Young Gun's last try as defending champion when he blew Cook away with 93 feet, 6 1/2 inches.
Krause began the competition in 2003 with a world-record spit of 110 feet, 4 inches, in the freestyle before taking the more structured international crown.
While this year's performance didn't warrant a 120-foot surface, "they will need it in the future."
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, during a tourism-promoting visit to southwest Michigan in June, dedicated the additional 20 feet Teichman added to the official tournament court.
She sampled spitting and propelled her pit about 24 feet.
Cook led off the championship round and set the bar high enough that no one approached his mark among the next dozen contestants who followed, including 12-time winner Rick "Pellet Gun" Krause (48 feet, 7 inches, for ninth, the first time he's ever finished below third), until his son Young Gun toed the stripe.
Those in between included: James Chattin, 36, of Lucasville, Ohio, 60 feet, 3 1/2 inches; former Dowagiac resident Brett Walsworth, 31, of St. Joseph, 49 feet, 8 1/2 inches; Charlie Weber, 48, of Dexter, 48 feet, 9 1/2 inches; Danny Roark, 19, of Vernon Hills, Ill., 43 feet, 5 1/2 inches; Matt Krause, 21, of Dimondale in a Grand Valley shirt, 41 feet, 6 inches; "Phantom of the Orchard," Martin Salter, 27, the 2003 Canadian champion, 50 feet, 7 1/2 inches; Dowagiac Union High guidance counselor Randy Luthringer, 36, of Niles, 55 feet, 6 1/2 inches; and past champions Joe Lessard Sr. of Ontario, Canada (52 feet, 7 1/2 inches) and Jim Burkhart of Bloomington, Ill. (30 feet, 6 inches).
Grandpa Krause, 50, a truck driver from Sanders, Ariz., called from down the court, "Let's go! You got a tail wind" and Brian let the winning pit rip. His second landed in Cook county at 73 feet. His third, which felt better, rolled out of bounds.
Brian, who began spitting pits as a 2-year-old toddler, joined his father on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno a few years ago. He said he gets "more nervous for my kids than me, just like my dad used to say."
His practice regimen starts "about the day before."
Brian said Pellet Gun is still capable of beating him, so it will be a challenge to take another eight contests without him claiming any more to ascend to the throne.
As their red-white-and-blue shirts testify: "Baseball has Ruth, Football has Montana, Basketball has Jordan," and pit spitting has the Krause clan.
, which includes such up-and-comers as Brian's boys, Brady "Cap Gun," 6 (18 feet, 7 inches) and Cole "Wonder Gun," 2 (9 feet, 7 inches in his debut). Morgan, 6 weeks, waits in the wings, gunless.
Rick Krause married four-time women's champ Marlene "Machine Gun" (37 feet, 10 inches) on court before the 1996 spit.
Ann St. Amand, 41, of St. Joseph, successfully defended her women's division title for the fourth time by outdistancing challengers with a spit of 46 feet, 1 inch, bettering her 2003 distance, 39 feet, 7 inches.
St. Amand credited her consistency in winning the last three times to having "four kids to yell at."
Second in the women's division with 42 feet, 11 inches, was Shannon Fitzpatrick, 16, of Custer Park, Ill., with Heidi Viar, 37, of Kalamazoo, third at 42 feet, 9 inches. Katie Walsworth, 26, of Iowa, hit 26 feet, 11 inches.
First-timer Alex Haimbaugh, 11, of Niles, took top honors in the ages 9-12 bracket with an impressive 40 feet, 9 1/2 inches after practicing by spitting Skittles candies.
Herb's and Liz's granddaughter, Alexis Teichman, 8, of Eau Claire, daughter of Bill and Monica Teichman, won the 6-8 category with a spit of 27 feet, 10 inches.
Aileen Kuypers, 5, of Oak Lawn, Ill., took the 5-and-under category with 12 feet, 8 1/2 inches.
Berrien Trial Judge Dennis Wiley won the dignitaries division with 31 feet, 7 inches, even after defending champion state Rep. Neal Nitz, R-Baroda (19 feet, 10 inches), demanded a mulligan after his first try veered out of bounds.
Most spitiful effort of the day went to state Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, 7 feet, 10 inches.
Wiley didn't need to carry out his threat to borrow high heels from the blossom queen and her court to get his pit aloft.
On the first spit of the day, J.Lo -- Miss Eau Claire-Sodus Jessica Lopez -- spit 18 feet, 2 inches. "I feel like I got a load off my chest," the first-timer said after arriving in Pat Larzelere's long, white limousine.
Brian Krause, you've just won the International Cherry Pit Spit, what are you going to do now? wondered commentator Pat Moody, the radio personality.
Auctioneer John Glassman wrote a song for the occasion and serenaded the court to the tune of "O Christmas Tree."