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Spring time turtle tradition at a Cumberland County school - abc27 WHTM

Spring time turtle tradition at a Cumberland County school

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"This is the kids' favorite activity of the year," proclaimed Learning Support Teacher Kelly Brown as students excitedly poured out onto the playground of Crestview Elementary School.

"He's a Russian Tortoise," said one fifth grader holding up his turtle for our abc 27 News camera.

"Everybody has a turtle. Everybody," laughed Brown. " It's becoming like the new school pet."

The excitement was all about Crestview's annual turtle race, a tradition spanning generations of students.

The playground was turned into an arena for the much anticipated event, with 500 bundles of spring fever ready to cheer for their favorite turtle.

The privately owned contestants were brought to the school just for the race. Each was identified by turtle-safe stickers and markers on their shells.

Retiring fifth grade teacher Ruth Nickey started the first of the two qualifying races with a blast of an air horn and the screaming began.

In only 17 seconds,the first of two heats was over and the lower grades had their winner.

For the second round, retiring music teacher Beth Ellen Walters had the honors of kicking off the race, exclaiming over a bullhorn: "Turtles. Start your engines!"

The upper classman had their winner in a blazing 21 seconds. The championship round featured a dramatic sprint to the finish line by "Mr. Turtle," which clinched bragging rights for Sue Ann Halteman's first grade class.

"I thought maybe he was a one-race turtle at first," said Halteman, noting the turtle's slow start, "And then, I was surprised when he reved up at the end."

For the winners it was a reason to celebrate. For the others, it was a great time anyway and another day closer to summer.

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