Carroll Summer Fun Camp participants Andrea Hackfort (left) and Jaidan Bernholtz row across the Carroll Aquatic Center pool during a cardboard-boat race held Tuesday. The pair came in second in a close race.
Carroll Summer Fun Camp participants Andrea Hackfort (left) and Jaidan Bernholtz row across the Carroll Aquatic Center pool during a cardboard-boat race held Tuesday. The pair came in second in a close race.

August 10, 2017

Team Torpedo had a plan.

When the three-man crew — Tyson Lundstrom, 13, Bennett Schweers, 12 and Blake Heiman, 12 — prepared to take to the water in a cardboard boat race hosted Tuesday by the Carroll Summer Fun Camp, the boat they boarded was the second one they’d designed, and the one they predicted would sail them to the finish line in record time.

The three ditched their original boat designs and crafted a vessel they believed would help them win it all. They painstakingly built their skiff with strategic duct tape placement, multiple layers of cardboard and floaties affixed to its underside — a foolproof plan.

They struggled to find a name for the boat, too.

“We were gonna do Hermes or Poseidon — Greek gods, we’re pretty big into that,” Schweers said.

But they settled on “Torpedo,” because torpedoes are fast — and they planned for their boat to be, as well.

“We’re here to win — and it’s gonna be hard for us not to win,” Schweers said before the race.

The race was offered for the Summer Fun Camp’s oldest students — sixth- and seventh-graders — while younger participants cheered them on from the side of the pool. The students spent about a week building the boats, partly with cardboard donated from Pella, said Joel Lundstrom. Lundstrom and his wife, Kristen, founded the Summer Fun Camp, which is designed for kids with autism and their “typical peers.”

“This was an activity where typical peers could work together with kids on the autism spectrum,” Lundstrom said. “It worked really well for both groups — they worked collaboratively together, which was cool.”

Within seconds of entering the pool, the Torpedo started to sink — but the boys on board weren’t deterred.

They swam, pushed and dragged their way to the finish line, even when the boat would no longer hold them — and after they slapped the end of the pool, they turned around and headed back, balancing atop the underside of the overturned dinghy.

Team Torpedo didn’t make it across the pool first, but their delight at reaching the finish line nevertheless was palpable.

“We won! We won!” they cried as they dragged their boat, which eventually dissolved into pieces, all the way to the end.

Meanwhile, the prize went to the large, unwieldy boat created by Bella Baldus and Treva Hahn, both 12. Baldus, who paddled across the Carroll Aquatic Center pool with Fun Camp teacher’s associate Katrina Vonnahme, took her time, and it paid off.

No one believed Baldus’ boat, which boasted much more cardboard and tape than the others and even had walls, would make it across — indeed, that boat was the favorite to sink first.

“We stuck cardboard together and made the walls big so people can’t hit us,” Baldus said.

Even the pair who created the boat believed it would sink first.

Were they OK with that happening?

“Kinda, yeah,” Hahn said before the race started.

Four boats total took to the water, with two capsizing early. Coming in close behind Baldus was another pair, Andrea Hackfort and Jaidan Bernholtz.

Most participants turned around and crossed the pool a second time, even with boats that were mostly underwater.

The ladies had the edge that day; the girls’ boats were still in one piece and never submerged even after two passes through the pool.

As for Bella? She was just surprised her boat didn’t sink — and when she realized it wouldn’t, she simply focused on getting across the pool, slow and steady.

“It wasn’t sinking, so I thought it would go,” she said after the race. “I was just trying to get across before it sank. I thought it was pretty funny, because everyone said it was gonna sink.”

Her predicted distinction of being the first to capsize didn’t come true.

But she’s not sad about the race’s outcome.