Ready, set, crawl! Babies race for Manassas Mall gold

As athletes on the other side of the world skated and skied, Austin Edwards completed his own Olympian feat in Manassas: He crawled.

Although it might not have required perfect technique or hours of training, Austin’s scramble across about 10 feet of padded mat was enough to beat out dozens of competitors, making the speedy 1-year-old the winner of the Diaper Derby, sponsored by WMZQ (98.7 FM).

Austin’s parents took home a $1,000 gift card to the Manassas Mall, awarded to the fastest crawler among more than 60 athletes at the Feb. 8 event — all of whom were younger than 14 months.

The radio station drew up strict rules for the event: Parents had to bring legal proof of a child’s birth date to make sure that no older crawlers sneaked in, and they had to sign a waiver. One adult could sit with the baby at the starting line and one could wait at the finish line, but the crawler was on his or her own in between.

And no walking.


WMZQ morning radio hosts Joe Boxer, left, and Aly Jacobs, right, coo over Austin Edwards, who came dressed as Superman and won the Diaper Derby. Austin’s parents, Jennifer and Graham, and big brother Graisen cheered him on. (Julie Zauzmer)

“He’s trying to learn how to walk, so I’m like, ‘Can you please hold off just until Saturday?’ ” Brittany Amaker said of her son, Kamdyn, as he awaited his heat of the race.

The parent or guardian waiting at the end of the race track — a mat in Manassas Mall — was allowed to yell, cheer and hold up objects to lure the baby. Anything but food or drink was fair game.

Edie Rutz said that she practiced at home with her 13-month-old son, Jay. He loves cheese, so she got him to crawl by holding up a special bowl that usually has cheese in it.

On the day of the race, the bowl was empty, but she hoped he would recognize it and come crawling anyway. “I’m really competitive, so we’re here to win,” she said.

The Voss family of Springfield came up with one of the most creative strategies: To surprise baby Luke into a speedy crawl, they hid Grandpa. He waited at the other end of the mall; Luke had no idea he was there. Luke’s father, Reid, explained the plan: Grandpa would show up at the finish line, and with luck a surprised and happy Luke would wriggle straight toward him.

Leslie Kossoff Nordby of North Potomac knows that her baby, Tyler, always grabs at her electronic devices when she is using them, so she crouched at the finish line with her cellphone and iPad. “He’d crawl across America to get to the iPad,” she said.

But when the hosts shouted “Go!” and Kossoff Nordby’s sister-in-law gave Tyler a gentle shove at the starting line, he sat still. Kossoff Nordby waved the iPad to no avail, until the moment the winning baby in Tyler’s heat crossed the finish line. Then Tyler took off, scooting to his mom.

Kate Alcantara of Manassas doubted that her 1-year-old daughter, Carmela, would follow the rules of the race. “She’s fast when she wants to be, but she also gets really distracted. So it’s anyone’s game,” Alcantara said.

Sure enough, when Carmela got her turn to compete, she took an early lead. Then she turned around and crawled back toward the starting line.

Joe Boxer, who co-hosted the Diaper Derby with his morning radio co-host, Aly Jacobs, said he enjoyed watching siblings, cousins and grandparents cheering from the sidelines, whether the babies they were rooting for scrambled, squirmed or just sat.

“It’s a competition, and it is kind of funny because the kids have no idea what’s going on,” he said. “But it’s really an event for the whole family.”

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.
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