Originally created 02/17/99

Baby derby contestants slow to start



A noisy crowd gathered around the racetrack as the athletes crouched ready at the starting line.

"On your mark, get set, go!" emcee Cindy Svehla shouted.

But nobody moved.

"Come on. Come on. Crawl," the crowd entreated.

But these tiny athletes -- contestants in the Fort Gordon Post Exchange Baby Derby on Tuesday -- weren't budging from the starting line. Their attention was diverted to the audience, the bunches of helium-filled balloons and popping flashbulbs.

Akeyle Eubanks' parents were sure their 7-month-old bundle of joy and energy would crawl quickly down her lane, scooting like she does at home.

"We've got a bowl," her father Michael Eubanks said. "When she sees us eating, she goes to the food. If she sees the bowl, she'll come to the bowl."

But in the race, Akeyle did what most of the other 15 baby derby contestants did. She lay on her stomach staring at the finish line where moms and dads prodded their infants to crawl, like they were Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.

Three babies eventually finished the race after much encouragement from their parents.

Harold and Necole Shorts' 11-month-old daughter Shante got distracted by the crowd, but she finished anyway in 1 minute, 3 seconds -- fast enough for third place.

And what got her there? Mom and Sing & Snore Ernie.

Nicholas Vollbrecht, who is 9 months old, was a second faster than Shante. But he cried until he reached his favorite rattle and his father's arms.

But Ernie and the rattle were no competition for the can of Diet Dr. Pepper and rattle ball that Annette Hackett used to entice her son down the raceway. Eleven-month-old Spencer won the derby with his crawling time of 48 seconds.

"I had the right tool," Mrs. Hackett said. "He's my little crawler."

In conjunction with the baby derby, Fort Gordon and Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center sponsored a car-seat inspection in the post exchange parking lot.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly, said inspector Sylvia Thompson, regional coordinator of the occupant safety program of the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension Service. An improperly installed child safety seat could prove deadly under the force of a collision.

"Even if they're buckled in, if they're not secured, the baby can be injured," Ms. Thompson said.

At the inspection, Antoinette Oliver learned that her 5-year-old should ride in a booster seat and that her 6-month-old baby's car seat was in the wrong place.

"That's why I stopped," Mrs. Oliver said, when told of her mistakes. "I wanted to make sure I take care of my babies."

Amy Joyner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or amyjoyn@augustachronicle.com.