"Mom, look it's a belly flop contest!" The boy's mom looks down at him, then at the competitors. She utters only one word: "Ouch."
And ouch is right. At the 15th Annual Belly Flop Splashdown, which took place this morning at Water World, college students from across Colorado (and even two from Nebraska and Missouri) belly flopped their way to some great prizes. What exactly could someone win for the 1st place belly flop? A scholarship worth $1000 and tickets to every summer country concert in Denver for the rest of the season, thanks to Water World, Colleges in Colorado and 92.5 KWOF (The Wolf).
With twenty seven students competing for the prize money, every movement -- from their first appearance in front of the crowd and the judges to their form mid-jump -- was crucial. "[I was looking for] sight, sound and splash -- how long they're in the air, what it sounds like when they hit the water and how big their splash is," said judge Professor Splash, aka Darren Taylor, who also happens to be a professional belly flopper. Professor Splash holds seventeen Guinness World Records for different belly flops, he said. Who knew someone could make a career out of belly flops?
This year's winners of the Splashdown, Meghan "MEGAMonster" Dwyer and Matt "Matt Weezy" Spreng, managed to impress Professor Splash and the other two judges, including a Broncos cheerleader, with their flop style, their costumes (Dwyer represented CU-Boulder with a black and yellow swimsuit and matching face paint, while Spreng looked like the world's biggest Colorado Rockies fan in his purple swimsuit, purple hair and "Matt Weezy" sticker on his chest) and their ability to rile up the crowd. Spreng, a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology, was the only contestant to have a perfect score of 30 in both the first round, flopping from a height of six feet, and the second round, from a height of twelve-and-a-half feet. He even had his own cheering section: As he pointed to one side of the Splashdown pool area, they'd cheer "Matt," and when he pointed to the other side, they'd cheer "Weezy." Needless to say, it was clear that Dwyer and Spreng were crowd favorites from the get-go. A spectator contest indeed.
"It feels pretty good to be recognized for the flops," said Spreng (the majority of his body paint rubbed off by that point) after he was announced the winner of the male contestants. "It feels great. It was worth the pain!" Dwyer said of her victory over the females.
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While Spreng and Dwyer were fearless when it came to getting the wind knocked out of them and their chests burning with a fire only a belly flop could cause, other students were scared of the pain -- a couple even botched their flops in the first round because a six-foot jump was just too much. But the fear of heights isn't what made Trae Williams, a student at the University of Denver, scared of the belly flop. It was not knowing how to swim. "I'm scared. This is like my worst fear," said Williams. "I'll be alright though. I've got to face it [the water] anyway, so I might as well do it now." Williams' strategy was more about presentation -- he wore an afro wig as part of his costume -- than technical style. And although Williams didn't win the scholarship money, he did conquer his fear, and you can't put a price on that.
Here are some more photos from today's Belly Flop Splashdown: