09/04/2007

Fla. officer downs 35 meatballs in under 3 minutes

By Erika Pesantes
The Sun-Sentinel

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. Monday's blistering sun was unforgiving, and so were the meatballs.

The 21st Annual Labor Day Police Challenge, sponsored by Delray Citizens for Delray Police, joined 105 men and women from the Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton police departments for volleyball and basketball tournaments and the Chiefs Trophy Challenge.

As they do each year, organizers throw a zany event into the mix. Monday's competitions culminated with massive men stuffing their faces with meatballs dipped in marinara sauce.

The challenge: Down 35 meatballs in three minutes.

The competitors: Boynton Beach Officer Steven Schoenfeld, a 6'2", 255-pound, 20-year veteran, who had indulged in BBQ ribs, pork and chicken Sunday in an effort to "stretch my stomach,"

Boca Raton Detective Mike Michel, who had no breakfast Monday and promised to could "pack it down" his 6-foot, 250-pound frame, and Delray Beach Officer Tim McInerney, a former New York Police Department officer who had some experience under his belt.

McInerney's track record included eating 40 hot dogs in 17 minutes during a 2003 preliminary round of the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest in Coney Island.

With just two eggs for breakfast to hold him down past 4 p.m., when the Chiefs competition finally finished, his stomach was grumbling. McInerney's 300-pound, 6-foot-5 self was ready to "pass out," he said.

Chef Tommy Tarr prepared 20 pounds of meat in garlic and fresh basil for the competition inside Boston's Restaurant. A raucous crowd of family and friends boomed as the men began jamming meatballs into their mouths.

Schoenfeld poured a glass of water over his mound of meatballs and bobbed his head as he swallowed and stared at the hooting and hollering crowd. Michel leaned into his plate but gradually slowed as the clock ticked.

McInerney, steady-paced, focused and tuning out the crowd of peers, finished all 35 meatballs with six seconds to spare.

Schoenfeld trailed in second place with 24 meatballs and Michel placed last with 22 meatballs.

Despite feeling "horrible," McInerney said, "I'll be here next year."

And then everyone lined up for the buffet as bragging rights made the rounds.

Boynton Beach Police Chief Matt Immler claimed the title in the Chiefs Trophy Challenge for the second year in a row, earning the most points in dropping free throws, throwing a football and playing Nintendo Wii.

Delray Beach police capture the men's basketball tournament.

"It's all about the opportunity to get together and socialize with each other," Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said.

Copyright 2007 The Sun-Sentinel

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