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Perkins reigns again as king of the fisk

POULSBO — As onlookers huddled around Kvelstad Pavilion Sunday afternoon hoping to catch a glimpse of a lutefisk clash of the titans, reigning champion Charles Jensen was all smiles.

“I’m a starving Marvin and I drank a whole lot of water this morning to bloat my stomach for this contest,” Jensen said, as he gave high fives to a smattering of his adoring fans.

The change in preparation along with the proven technique of shoveling the tasty treat from the plate to his palate combined with the standard “aerodynamic haircut” should be enough, Jensen, sporting a shaved head and ponytail, joked before the contest.

“All I have to do is eat more than he does,” Jensen said, motioning to former champion Eric Perkins.

The two iron bellies went 10 rounds in last year’s contest before Jensen stomached five pounds of the lye-soaked delicacy to claim his second straight crown.

While Jensen made his rounds laughing and joking with his adoring public, Perkins kept his eye on him, knowing that the giant of a man was his only real competition.

“It’s going to take a healthy appetite and if I can get him into the final rounds, it’s just a matter of looking forward to see who makes it,” Perkins explained.

What will it take to overcome the defending champion, who appeared to be in the best shape of his life, Perkins was asked.

“(About) five pounds, but it could go to six or seven this year,” Perkins quipped. “He looks pretty hungry.”

With all the build up and jokes aside, the first hurdle in the contest was predicated by speed, not storage capacity. Perkins and Jensen appeared to be neck-and-neck when the bell sounded. The duo seemed headed for another showdown but Jeff Richards threw a monkey wrench in the mix and finished first. Perkins took second in the lightning round.

Suddenly the cool, confident reigning champion broke a sweat as lutefisk unknown Matt Richardson’s plate appeared emptier than his own.

As Richardson pulled ahead, Jensen attempted to find another gear as his mouth swept wildly across the plate in hopes of making it to the next round. Then it was over.

The reigning champion stood bewildered, unwilling to believe that the unthinkable had happened. He was gone, out of the contest, seconds shy of a rematch with Perkins.

“I don’t know what happened,” said a visibly dejected Jensen. “I can’t explain it but I’ll be back.”

With Jensen out of the contest, Perkins had the look of a lottery winner, but even he was disappointed.

“I was really looking forward to having Charles in the contest and I’m disappointed that he’s out of it,” Perkins said. “Now, it’s just a matter of time.”

As Richardson peered over at Perkins, he noted that this year’s ‘fisk had a gamier taste than previous years.

“It’s going to make it harder, but I’ve never gotten this far before, so I’m going to enjoy it,” Richardson said.

In the second round, Richards sped through his plate and Richardson hurriedly gobbled to finish second. Perkins, however, took his time as he finished with two minutes to spare.

Richards and Richardson continued their pace until the fourth round when the ‘fisk began swimming upstream on a visibly fatigued Richardson.

With the crowd cheering him on and his face turning green, Richardson valiantly tried to finish his second pound of the fisk. The third time was the charm as the bucket brigade was called in to relieve him of his efforts.

The next and final round lacked the flair of its predecessor as Perkins looked over at a queasy Richards and knew the championship moment was at hand.

When Richards finished his plate, he suddenly transformed into famed boxer Roberto Duran as he told the crowd, “No more, I’m done.”

With that a jubilant Perkins pumped his fist in victory and in an ultimate show of sportsmanship gave his free lutefisk dinner to runner-up, Richards.

“It was a very good competition, but I’m still hungry since I only ate 2 1/2 pounds,” Perkins said. “I think I’ll go grab a hamburger or something.”

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