In the Battle of the Belts at Mohonasen High School, every millisecond mattered.
The winning team of four 10th-grade girls won by less than two-tenths of a second by buckling and unbuckling their seat belts four times — in four different seats — in 40.083 seconds. The next closest team finished in 40.272 seconds.
“We’re really excited because another team came really close and we just barely beat them, but we’re happy,” said Brittany Boyce, 16, who was joined on the winning team by Nicole March, 15, Maryam Arshad, 16, and Justina Fikert, 15.
The competition was fast-paced, as students had to run to get into the white minivan, jump out of their seats and circle the van to get to the next seat belt. The annual event is designed to change behaviors and attitudes about seat belt use among middle and high school-age students through a fun activity.
The students made T-shirts for the event that read “#buckleup” and “cool” with an image of a buckled seat belt and “fool” with an image of an unbuckled belt. Twelve teams of four students in grades nine through 12 took part in the event, which was sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions.
“This is the first of many events that we do this time of season, as we’re heading into prom and ball season, to get kids to think about the decisions that they’re making,” said Tim Hulihan, assistant principal at the high school.
The event was started more than a decade ago as part of the Sean Patrick French Memorial Run. The run, which takes place this weekend, honors the memory of French, a 17-year-old Chatham High School student who died as a passenger in a drunk-driving accident on New Year’s Day in 2002.
By winning Tuesday, Boyce’s team will compete against teams from schools across the region in the Battle of the Belts “World Championship” at 11 a.m. Sunday at Chatham High School.
Boyce attributed the win to her team’s technique, which members practiced a day earlier in the car of March’s mom.
“We would take the seat belt, pull it out, and then grab it with one hand, and then buckle, so we had slack in the seat belt,” she said.
Jose Delgado’s team didn’t appear to have such a strategy and finished in just over 53 seconds after struggling with the belts.
“I’ll tell you, it was kind of hard, because when we pulled on it — just yanked on it — it didn’t work as well as we thought,” said Delgado, 17, a junior.
Delgado and his teammates said they had fun even though they didn’t win. Delgado said he doesn’t think twice before buckling up.
“I love wearing my seat belt because I had a friend who was in an accident and he didn’t wear his seat belt and he got injured really bad,” he said. “So I take that into consideration, like that could happen to me.”