The world has a new tiller racing champion. 

Wesley Wilson, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and rookie to the sport of tiller racing, narrowly defeated two-time defending champion Cody Fuller on Saturday in the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race.

The race was close. In fact, in what should have been the final and deciding heat, it was so close that a winner could not be determined. Race officials made an on-the-fly decision to run one more additional heat. That race was also a nail-biter, but video proved conclusively that Wilson had edged out Fuller.

Wilson, piloting the tiller “Pony Express,” had raced the final heat in a time of 8.32 seconds. Fuller, using the tiller “Gold Digger,” finished with a time of 8.43 seconds.

In the Women’s Modified Division, 20-year-old Lauren Smith of Buckner, Arkansas, took the title for the third year in a row, with Hannah Doty of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas placing second. Smith, also using the tiller “Gold Digger,” had a fastest heat time of 8.60 seconds compared to 9.28 seconds on a slow track last year, and 8.74 seconds in 2017.

In the Youth Stock Division, Brandon Hanson of Emerson placed first.

Hannah Massey of Magnolia won the Kids Flower Bed Division.

The track was in a new location this year, on the outskirts of the Emerson School softball field, north of the elementary school.

A moderate rain overnight had made the track moist.

Another change was the race length of the Stock and Flower Bed Divisions, altered from the previous years’ full track length of 200 feet to 100 feet.

Also, prize money this year was more in keeping with the times, with winnings for first place in the Men’s Modified Division and Women’s Modified Division both being $750.

The race of souped-up garden tillers is the feature event of the Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival, held each year on the last Saturday in June.

Winners by category:

Men’s Modified Division:

First Place -- Wesley Wilson, Magnolia, AR, 8.32 seconds

Second Place -- Cody Fuller, Emerson, AR, 8.43 seconds

Third Place -- Blake Hanson, Emerson, AR, 10.09 seconds

Women’s Modified Division

First Place --Lauren Smith, Buckner, AR, 10.08 seconds

Second Place -- Hannah Doty, Horseshoe Bend, AR, 10.75 seconds

Youth Stock Division

First Place -- Brandon Hanson, Emerson, AR, 12.27 seconds

Second Place -- Mason Rich, Emerson, AR, 14.60 seconds

Third Place -- Max Rich, Emerson, AR, 23.18 seconds

Flower Bed Division

First Place -- Hannah Massey, Magnolia, AR, 9.06 seconds.

Second Place -- Paycen Dodson, Taylor, AR, 12.66 seconds.

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