Brothers Robert and David Schneider employed a winning strategy that helped them snag a pair of gold medals at Freeport's annual canoe race Sunday.
After the other aluminum canoes had clanged, smacked and grinded together in a jumbled mess at the start, the pair sped off alone, leaving the pack behind. The two glided back to the finish at the sun-drenched beach at Cow Meadow Park in Freeport.
"We gave them a head start," said Robert Schneider, 10, who is a year older than his brother. "We knew they were going to get nervous."
Organizers said about 150 people participated in the races that have been held each year since the 1970s.
That's a big improvement from last year's showing of about 30 people, said Lois Howes, president of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event with the Freeport Police Athletic League.
Howes attributed the greater turnout to better advertising, including a social media campaign, though a nearly cloudless sky helped too.
Up to 10 canoes at a time raced around the course that typically took about five minutes for the fastest.
"Let's all have a lot of fun!" yelled Marianne Endo, an adaptive physical education teacher from Freeport who was an organizer and emcee of the event.
Patti Morris, 47, a personal trainer from Freeport and her partner Tania Rios, 30, a fitness club manager from Long Beach, were given the canoe with the starting position farthest from the first of two buoys they'd need to round.
"It's going to make the victory that much more impressive," Rios said as she stepped into a canoe for the first time in her life. The pair took an early lead as they rounded the first buoy. Rowing hard and smoothly, they glided past the second buoy as a few canoes were still sloshing around toward the first.
Morris turned around and saw they had a strong lead.
"She's like, 'There's no one behind us,' " Rios said afterward. "I'm like, 'Keep paddling!' "
Rios summed up their victory: "We came. We paddled. We conquered."
Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy and his partner came in fourth in their race. Kennedy called it a success. "I was in the canoe race last year, and I sank, so I did a lot better," Kennedy said with a grin.
"Teamwork is a big thing -- and listening to each other," said Leah Hochman, 14, of Freeport, who came with her soccer teammate Nakacee McNab, 14, of Freeport. "We already do that pretty well."
Officer Bobby G. Ford, of the Freeport Police Department and executive director of the Freeport Police Athletic League, said the event had been successful and hoped next year it will be even bigger.
"A lot of them are first-timers, but once they're exposed to it, they want to come back," Ford said.