With a furrowed brow and determined grip, Lauren Cocklin pedaled her tricycle furiously toward the finish line, towing 48 1/4 pounds of brick--almost her entire weight--in a cart behind her.
But just inches before the finish line, where friends and family were cheering, the 5-year-old's legs gave out and her tricycle stalled.
The audience sighed in disappointment and the Ojai girl jumped off the trike and buried her teary-eyed face in her mother's belly. She finished in third place.
About two dozen children ages 3 to 8 faced off Thursday at the Ventura County Fair's annual tricycle pull, a popular event that challenges kids to pedal about 40 feet while pulling a load of bricks.
Some children who participated in the race last year returned for another chance at victory, while others tackled the tough contest for the first time Thursday.
Trevor Laly, 5, of Sunland was a newcomer who walked away with a trophy after his aunt signed him up for the event.
"We were trying to get him out of the petting zoo," said his mother, Debra Laly, gesturing to a neighboring pen full of pigs, goats and other creatures.
Ginny Bittner, 6, of Oxnard always comes to the fair but had not attempted the trike pull until Thursday. She pedaled 37 feet towing 37 1/2 pounds, but did not take home a prize.
"At the end, it was really hard," she said. As Ginny found out, the course concludes with a slight incline that slows competitors down.
Amber Siegel, 7, who missed first place in last year's competition by an inch, returned Thursday for a second try.
To improve her chances this year, the determined redhead rode her mountain bike up hills near her home in London, England. "I've been training all winter and spring," she said. "I think I'll do good."
When it was Amber's turn on the tricycle, she pedaled about 40 feet and crossed the duct-tape finish line with ease, qualifying her for a "pull-off."
"It's the first time I've ever gone across the line," she beamed afterward.
Thursday's tricycle pull winners in the 3-5 age group were Trevor Laly, first place; Alex Najera, 4, of Anaheim, second place, Lauren Cocklin, third place.
In the 6-8 age group, the winners were Ryan Nichols, 8, of Thousand Oaks, first place; Amber Siegel, second place, and Brittany Cocklin, 8, of Ojai, third place.