Monday, April 13, 2015

Savary and Wheatcraft take their turn with the worms

Of Charles Darwin's books, the most famous are The Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man. Less known is his last scientific book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms. In the pages of the latter Darwin wrote, “It has often been said that if the ground is beaten or otherwise made to tremble, worms believe that they are pursued by a mole and leave their burrows.”

That earthworms could be driven above ground by vibration is the basis for worm fiddling, or worm grunting as some call it. Worm grunters drive a stake into the ground, draw a metal rod across it like a fiddle bow to create vibrations, then harvest for fish bait the worms that pop out of the ground. Worm grunting has been practiced near Sopchoppy, Florida, for decades, so Vanderbilt University scientist Ken Catania went there in 2008 to see if there was anything to Darwin's theory--that worms' flight from vibration was an adaptation to avoid moles. Working with two of Sopchoppy's professional worm grunters, Catania was able to demonstrate that the reaction of worms to grunting was identical to their reaction to the movements of a hungry mole.

Even before Sopchoppy performed this service for science, the village had been holding an Worm Gruntin' Festival on the second Saturday of each April. Of course, a festival requires a 5K road race, so there was a Worm Gruntin' 5K. The race faded away after a few years, but it was revived in 2012. Stronger than ever, the Worm Gruntin' 5K returned to the streets of Sopchoppy on Saturday morning, 11 April 2015. North Florida Christian School junior Chase Savary won the 3.1-mile event in 17:45, the first of 153 finishers. Wakulla High frosh Dylan Peebles finished secon in 18:28, just ahead of another Wakulla High runner, senior Travis Parks. Parks was third in 18:39. William Carter edged Jeff Kuperberg for the top master spot in the 5K, Carter taking 11th in 21:29 while Kuperberg finished 12th in 21:34.

The 2015 Worm Gruntin' 5K women's crown went to Wakulla High frosh Hannah Wheatcraft. Wheatcraft, 15, placed 14th overall in 22:05. Connie Lewis, a Wakulla High junior, took second on the women's side, finishing 15th overall in 22:49. Juanita Chalmers, 32, was the third female finisher, coming in 18th overall in 24:12. Belinda Wharton came out ahead of Connie Clarke 25:09 to 25:10 in a close fight for the top woman master spot. Wharton and Clarke were seventh and eighth in the women's standings, coming in 24th and 25th overall.

In 2016 the second Saturday in April will be the 9th. Expect another Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival and another Worm Gruntin' 5K then.

Top Ten Men, 2015 Worm Gruntin' Festival 5K
  1. 17:45 ~ Chase Savary (M, 16)
  2. 18:28 ~ Dylan Peebles (M, 15)
  3. 18:39 ~ Travis Parks (M, 19)
  4. 18:44 ~ Dalten Wood (M, 15)
  5. 18:54 ~ Israel Diaz (M, 14)
  6. 19:20 ~ Trevor Marshall (M, 33)
  7. 20:17 ~ David Harrell (M, 29)
  8. 20:18 ~ Scott Lloyd (M, 14)
  9. 20:23 ~ William Thomas (M, 15)
  10. 21:24 ~ Finley McMillan (M, 12)

Top Ten Women, 2015 Worm Gruntin' Festival 5K
  1. 22:05 ~ Hannah Wheatcraft (F, 15)
  2. 22:49 ~ Connie Lewis (F, 16)
  3. 24:12 ~ Juanita Chalmers (F, 32)
  4. 24:30 ~ Malisa Anderson-Strait (F, 37)
  5. 24:35 ~ Andrea Palmiotto (F, 29)
  6. 25:08 ~ Vaishali Desai (F, 28)
  7. 25:09 ~ Belinda Wharton (F, 54)
  8. 25:10 ~ Connie Clarke (F, 53)
  9. 25:40 ~ Nancy Lewis (F, 49)
  10. 25:44 ~ Jessica Wells (F, 29)

Known winners of the Sopchoppy, Florida, Worm Grunting Festival 5K, 2003 - 2015
12 April 2003
10 April 2004
9 April 200518:36, Mackey Tyndall20:57, Julie Clark59
8 April 2006Karl HempelKarmen Duchon55
14 April 200720:11, Brett TempletonSydney Nutting56
14 April 201217:27, Stanley Linton23:00, Julie Rose Travis111
13 April 201315:56, Stanley Linton21:46, Emily Smith139
12 April 201420:48, Travis Parks21:20, Kayla Webbe140
11 April 201517:45, Chase Savary22:05, Hannah Wheatcraft153


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