The rules for the first annual Yale Angler’s Journal Swedish fish eating contest were mostly practical:
One: 25 fish per person per round, must be consumed fully in one minute.
Two: No chipmunking (that is, hiding fish in your cheeks).
Three: No deliberate puking, and as for inadvertent puking, make it clean.
Held in 102 Linsly-Chittenden Hall Thursday afternoon, the same room in which Frank Turner teaches about Rousseau and Nigel Alderman teaches about modern British literature, more than 80 Yalies gathered to watch their peers force feed themselves gummyfish for a first prize of 50 dollars. The winner, Virgil Calejesan ’02, ate 325 fish in 13 rounds.
There are 2395 calories in 325 Swedish fish. It took Calejesan 25 minutes to win. His technique: one at a time, swallowing them whole.
Slowly, methodically, he won with the crowd and the powers of peristalsis on his side. It was a tough fight, he said, but the fish were waxy, so swallowing them wasn’t too hard.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever felt while needing to vomit,” he said.
How will he spend the money?
“Tomorrow, with my friends, at Louis’ Lunch.”
The less-successful opted for the chewing approach which created more than 50 contest losers, 50 sore jaws and 50 likely cavities in the near future.
Taking a Yale Angler’s Journal T-shirt for his third-place finish, sophomore Will Reid, who ate 250 fish, said he did it for the glory.
“It is quite an honor to be taking part in such a prestigious event,” he said. “I have kind of a burning sensation between my navel and the bottom of my rib cage, and I think I might be running a fever, but I’m happy. I didn’t want the money that badly. I just want the apparel.”
He found it pleasantly symbolic, he added, that right before Harvard-Yale weekend, a group of Yalies gathered to consume thousands of little, red fish.
The second place contestant, Mike Renda ’04, who will receive a cash-prize of 25 dollars, said it was mind over matter that got him through until the less-than-bitter end. He couldn’t stomach the last 25 fish and officially consumed only 300.
“There were times my body said ‘no’ but my brain said ‘yes,’ and my brain triumphed,” he said. “I’ve been eating Swedish fish since a young age, so I thought that helped.”
The catch-and-release prize of 20 dollars, for the first person to genuinely toss their fishies, went unclaimed.
At the beginning of the event, the crowd of participants and spectators banged their desks in unison, a collective call-to-fins for what many expect to be a landmark for this generation of Yalies.
“Thump-thump, bang-bang-bang, thump-thump-thump-thump, Let’s Go.”
And with that prompting, the contest organizers — members of the Yale Angler’s Journal and their friends — read the rules and began passing out cups of fish. Contestants were expected to open their mouths immediately after each round-ending whistle blew, so the staff could make sure they weren’t chipmunking.
One competitor — presumably a freshman — asked, “What about braces?”
From the podium on stage at the front of the room, the managing board of the Journal shouted, “If you have braces, sorry, but you’re f—ed.”
Conceived of as a publicity stunt, the fish-eating extravaganza drew the anticipated crowd, said journal Editor-in-Chief David Haltom ’04.
“We’re more well-known outside the Yale campus than on campus,” he said, “and since we’re really an undergraduate publication, we were hoping to get some notoriety around here.”
Though most said they came for the money or the free fish, a few were just along for the ride.
“It’s the journey, not the prize, that I’m here for,” said Phil Kenney ’05.
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