Ready, set, sweat
Jeff Stuedler watched in awe as a contestant in Saturday's Cinco de Mayo jalapeno eating contest methodically reduced his plate of green peppers to stems.
"This guy's just steady," he said of James Schuler of De Soto. "He's a machine."
Stuedler's awe was based on experience. He managed to finish off a plate of 10 peppers before dropping out of the competition.
"Those were too fresh, man," he said as he gulped a class of cold water provided by his friends.
Stuedler wasn't alone. Sergio Lugo, Luis Marquez and Ivan Acosta also failed to finish out the 10-minute competition.
The contest quickly came down to Schuler and Gerardo Diaz of Bonner Springs. In a scene reminiscent of a Western, the two men sat at opposite ends of a long table matching each other pepper for pepper. Having consumed the 10 peppers on their plates, the two men dug into a bag for more.
As the three-deep crowd closed in, sweat on brows and lips of the two men betrayed the contest's toll.
When the contest ended and the stems were counted, it was determined both men had finished off 18 peppers and would split the $60 prize.
Schuler said he thought he ate 20 peppers. Two went uncounted because they had no stems, he said. His only strategy was to "just keep wolfing them," he said.
As for training, Schuler said he and his wife, Wanda, eat raw jalapeno peppers "all the time."
"She probably could have eaten more than I did," he said.
Five minutes after finishing his last pepper, Diaz was still drinking water. But he maintained the contest wasn't a challenge.
"It was easy," he said. "Fifty's my record."
The peppers did ruin his appetite, Diaz said.
"I'm not going to eat nothing," he said. "I'm just going to drink cold beer the rest of the night."