MONTPELIER, Vermont – Thirteen-year-old Katharine Tuck's sneakers smell as bad as they look. Now, at least, the Utah seventh-grader can afford some new ones.
On Tuesday, she out-ranked six other children to win $2,500 in the 32nd annual National Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest, stinking up the joint with a pair of well-worn 1 1/2-year-old Nikes so noxious they had the judges wincing.
"I'm so proud of the little stinker," said her mother, Paula Tuck.
Ah, the foul smell of success.
Katharine has used the sneakers to play soccer and basketball, hiked in them, even waded into the Great Salt Lake, where they were infiltrated by brine shrimp.
The contest, founded in 1975 as a sporting goods store promotion and now sponsored by the manufacturer of anti-foot odor products, pits children from around the United States who have won state-level competitions for the generally cruddy condition of their footwear.
Michael Nduka, 9, of White Plains, New York, sported ratty black-and-white low-cuts, which — like the others — were passed from judge to judge for inspection. Judge William Fraser held one up using the tip of a pen.
Contestants had to jump in place once and make one full turn in place before taking off their shoes and handing them to the judges. It was 24 degrees outside, but only one of the kids wore socks — foot sweat is a boon, not a bane, in this game.
Katharine and her father missed a connecting flight and had to drive part of the way to Vermont. Their luggage still had not arrived Tuesday.
Her mother had the foresight to warn her not to ship her prized shoes in her checked baggage. Mercifully for airport security screeners, she did not wear them, either, opting to carry them in her purse.