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Special Olympics' plane-pull rolls away with $92,000


At the end of the day, big and beefy beat out bantam and brainy with no sweat.

Little surprise there, since the objective yesterday was to pull a 140,000-pound air cargo plane 12 feet across the tarmac at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Out of 52 teams, it was easy to see that the puny ones didn't stand a chance against Jim Myrick's secret weapon: His team included a seven-time world champion power-lifting bruiser and his meaty friends who took first place at the 3rd-annual Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) Police Plane Pull.

"You gotta pull the ringers for stuff like this," admitted Kirk Karwoski, the world champ and captain of Myrick's muscle-bound Celtic Sheet Metal team which pulled the plane 12 feet in the fastest time at 7.53 seconds.

"Jim said, 'Hook me up with some beef,'" Karwoski said. "That's what I did, and it did the job."

"All in all, this whole thing is a good time," he said after snatching bragging rights away from teams of police officers, firefighters, corporate employees and other groups that helped raise $92,000 for Special Olympics Maryland. Last year's plane pull raised more than $80,000.

In a weekend full of unusual charity events in the region - from dragon boat races for Catholic Charities, to a 50-mile motorcycle ride in support of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, to juvenile diabetes' donors playing baseball at Oriole Park this evening - the Plane Pull at the airport in Linthicum may have been the wackiest of all.

"Why in the world would you pull a 72-ton plane?" asked Pat Hanratty, senior manager for FedEx in Baltimore whose company provided two Boeing 727s for the event. "It's like a freight train coming at you. But it's fun, and it's for a good cause."

In this tug-of-war, a team of 20 pits itself against the hulking vehicle using only a 100-foot rope.

The team with the fastest time won.

In another version, teams of up to 25 members had three minutes to pull the plane 12 feet. The team with the lowest combined weight - they stand on a truck scale afterward - won.

According to Special Olympics, the first Plane Pull was the brainchild of a deputy police chief for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and was held for Special Olympics in Virginia at Dulles International Airport in 1992. Today, similar events are held throughout the year with one even in Hawaii.

But no matter where the competition takes place, every team has a different strategy.

At BWI yesterday, a team representing Cellular One strode onto the tarmac to the tune of Queen's, "We Will Rock You." Seven-year-old Blake Rudden was so confident, he was pulling only with his right hand.

"I can do it with one finger," he yelled as the plane inched forward. Good thing his teammates weren't thinking on the same wavelength. His team, alas, didn't place.

Walt Solley used positive visualization.

"Think seven seconds. Think seven seconds," chanted the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. team captain to his squad of engineers and designers.

The Maryland State Police aviation unit was hoping to win using the element of surprise. Their group - tall and lean - was tiny compared to Celtic's behemoths.

"We wanted to psych everybody out with our size," said Sgt. Dan Cornwell.

The plan worked last year . They won the lowest team weight contest and impressed the crowd with their pluck.

"The first year we did this, I had my SWAT team here. They were real 'Hans and Franz'-type guys," said Col. David B. Mitchell, state police superintendent, referring to the muscle-bound duo in old "Saturday Night Live" skits. "They pulled the plane in 12 seconds. I thought my aviation team wouldn't have a chance, but they pulled it in eight. It's all in the technique."

Or maybe a little boost from above?

The 21 members of Helping Up Mission, a spiritual recovery program in Baltimore, pulled the jet in 10.5 seconds much to their joy, but they failed to place in the top three.

In the fast pull, the MdTA Police took second in 8.03 seconds and the MdTA Recruit Class 31 took third in 8.25 seconds.

In the lowest-weight pull, MdTA Recruit Class 31 took first place, weighing a total of 2,040 pounds. The Baltimore City Police Department finished second, weighing in at 2,175 pounds, and the MdTA Police third, weighing in at 2,230 pounds.

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