Florida’s Fleck wins record 8h National Figure Eight Open Title in dramatic fashion.

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Florida’s Fleck wins record 8h National Figure Eight Open Title in dramatic fashion.

Crandon, Wisconsin – It had been over 5 years and 1200 runs at the National Figure Eight Barefoot Championships since the last Pete Fleck fell before his opponent did on a run. August 3 in the finals of the double elimination tournament, it happened again to the same man who beat him last in the longest run in the event’s history, Marc Donahue. The stunned crowd couldn’t believe what they had seen. The run didn’t even go a full figure eight. The reason? The protective tape Fleck was wearing, tore off, sending him sideways in a set of giant cross rollers in the final hundred yards of the first eight. To some barefoot purists it was the ultimate irony. The controversial Duck tape that allowed him and other skiers to protect their feet so they could barefoot farther without burning, ultimately did him in. Word quickly spread across social media. Fleck’s 3-year stranglehold on the Open Championship might end. The fall would force a run-off.

But after quickly re-taping, Fleck proved once again why he is the most dominant endurance footer in the world, beating Donahue easily to win his record eight National Figure Eight Open Title.

The championship followed a weekend of drama and near misses that saw a half dozen strong contenders, including last year’s runner-up Chad Mietz and former Footstock Open Champ Donahue making strong runs at the title. The two of them completing more than double the number of figure eights any other competitor had to complete, besides Fleck.

But the most interesting subplot, was whether either of the world’s two highest ranked professional barefooters, Keith St. Onge or David Small could pose a threat to the seemingly unbeatable Fleck.

The crowd got its first answer early Sunday when the long-awaited head to head matchup between Fleck and the reigning World Overall Champ, Small (who was competing for the first time at Footstock), ended in a rare disqualification because of Small’s butt riding on the final stretch of their first eight. Small disputed the call by the boat. But the mistake was clear to the crowd of over 500 on shore. Small would have to work his way through the loser’s bracket if he wanted a chance at the title.

But neither of them got a second chance at Fleck.  As both were knocked out in the round of 6 by Donahue. Their exits left just Donahue and last year’s runner-up Chad Mietz to wrench Fleck’s stranglehold on the Open title. After two eights, Mietz succumbed to fatigue and the Indiana Iron Man-Donahue, setting up an all-too familiar final and a rematch of the Senior Championship the day before.

Despite the cheering of the obviously Donahue backed crowd and the tournament’s Fleck Vodoo-themed promotional poster, Fleck was again the last man standing.

“Marc made it really tough on me,” explained an exhausted, but jubilant Fleck in the boat after winning. “Winning number 8 with my family here was really special.”

The 2-day tournament, which featured 121 professional and amateur footers from Florida to Canada, started with a full figure eight on the very first run setting the tone for a weekend of uncharacteristically calm water. Although the longest run of the tournament was just 2-3/4 eights, far short of the record 5-1/4 eights by Donahue and Fleck in 2010, figure eights were the norm all weekend in every division from Juniors to Masters.

The Senior Division Championship was also won by Fleck on Saturday, for the fourth consecutive time. A dramatic shift in weather conditions Sunday afternoon though, brought whitecaps to the mile and a half course and scuttled any chance for long runs in the Women’s, Junior’s or Masters Division Championships. In the end, Wayne King of Canada continued his dominance of the Master’s Division beating Michigan’s Dave Hopkins in a run-off. And Wisconin’s Amandas Cotter upset last year’s champ, Haley Gibbon in the women’s final. In a rematch of last year’s Junior final, Brody Meskers beat young Isaac Aukee twice to win his first title.

The tournament’s newest competitive division also proved to be one of the weekend’s most entertaining. The Costume Division, sponsored by BarefootCentral and Eagle Sports had $900 on the line to the 3 top finishers. Skiers received points for their costume creativity, originality and difficulty to ski in and bonus points for their finish in their overall bracket. “Leisure Suit” man, Brayden Becker let in costume creativity along with Joe Heilman for his depiction of “Mini-Fleck.” But Tim Camodeca in his Penguin Suit prevailed after receiving 5 bonus points for winning the skiing part of the competition. In all, 9 skiers competed in the inaugural division which is sure to explode next year.

In all, over 274 runs were pulled in two days and $8,500 in prize money was awarded, making it the largest cash prize barefoot championship in the country.

 

2014 National Figure Eight Barefoot Championships Official Results

Open
1st      Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd      Marc Donahue (Indiana)
3rd      Chad Mietz (Wisconsin)
4th      David Small (England)
5th      Keith St Onge (Florida)
6th      Kyle Kazel (Minnesota)
7th      Brody Meskers (Wisconsin)
8th      Luke Bruckner (Wisconsin)
9th      Colt Wennlund (Wisconsin)
10th      Kevin MacGregor (Minnesota)
11th      Jacob Weber (Minnesota)
12th      Nick Ruchti (Minnesota)
13th      Greg Fatla (Wisconsin)
14th      Ron Blouw (Michigan)
15th      Alex Mahnke (Wisconsin)
16th      Martin Lorenz (Minnesota)

Womens
1st      Amanda Cotter (Wisconsin)
2nd      Haley Gibbon (Wisconsin)
3rd      Kristina Ruchti (Minnesota)
4th      Amanda Nelson (Wisconsin)

Seniors
1st      Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd      Marc Donahue (Indiana)
3rd      Chad Mietz (Wisconsin)
4th      Bob Mahnke (Wisconsin)

Masters
1st      Wayne King (Canda)
2nd      Dave Hopkins (Michigan)
3rd      Mike Netzer (Wisconsin)

Juniors
1st      Brody Meskers (Wisconsin)
2nd      Isaac Aukee (Michigan)
3rd      Spencer Schallock (Wisconsin)
4th      Henry Kerschbaum (Wisconsin)

Best of the Worst and Worst
Jarrett Breber

Costume Contest
1st      Tim Camodeca (Penguin)
2nd      Braydon Becker (Leisure Suit)
3rd      Joe Heilman (Mini Fleck)

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