MARTINSBURG — While Kevin P. Hunter won several watercross races last weekend at the Flat Rock Inn, others paled in comparison to his victory in the inaugural Garrett M. Miller Memorial “Last Man Standing.”
“This race means more to me than racing,” the Glastonbury, Conn. resident said Saturday evening after outlasting 30 other riders. “It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
The event was held in memory of a 15-year-old South Lewis Central School sophomore who died in February from cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
“Being a parent myself, I can’t imagine losing a child,” Hunter said after receiving a trophy from Garrett’s parents, Heather A. and Mark K. Miller. “There’s nothing worse in the world.”
Given that Garrett — who was heavily involved in watercross and other outdoor activities — battled the disease for a long time, it made sense to hold an endurance race in his honor, Flat Rock Inn owner Gordon Yancey, a long-time friend of the Miller family, has said.
The inaugural event featured 31 drivers who each started with exactly one gallon of gas. The goal was then to ride their snowmobiles anywhere around Flat Rock’s watercross oval until all other competitors had either stalled out, run out of gasoline or come ashore.
Hunter is a veteran competitor, having competed in watercross events since 1995.
“My uncle started doing it in the 80s when it was a straight-line thing, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
However, Hunter said he had never been involved in an event with anywhere near as many competitors as in Saturday’s run.
“That was the biggest race I’ve ever ridden,” he said.
The Connecticut man said his winning strategy consisted of using as little throttle as possible and getting into the water quickly to avoid getting into other competitors’ wakes. And it worked, as he was able to complete two extra victory laps after the rest of the sleds were waterlogged, then drive his machine to his pit area after coming to shore.
“I probably could have gone two more,” he said.
Proceeds from the event will either be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or a South Lewis memorial scholarship in Garrett’s name.