NEWRY — When competing against the world's fittest man, Joe Decker of San Diego, Calif., it helps to have an edge.

Lacey Castro's edge over Joe and Nicole Decker in the 10th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship on Saturday at Sunday River Ski Resort, proved to be her fleet-footed husband, Dave Castro.

Dave is an assistant football coach and track and field coach at Lewiston High School.

The Lewiston couple took first place on the 278-yard obstacle course, posting a time of 54.45 seconds. That came despite a fall near the finish line on the first run that knocked the wind out of Dave, and Lacey off of his shoulders.

But they quickly stood, she draped herself back over his shoulders upside down — arms around his waist and legs locked around his head in the Finnish event's traditional Estonian carry — and they crossed the line four seconds later to loud applause.

“When we came over the hill, I said to myself, 'Just go for it,' and I must have tripped over a rock or something,” Dave said.

His body suddenly pitched forward and he hit the ground hard, spilling 97-pound Lacey, bloodying her hand and banging her knee. Lacey said she thought she'd fallen off on her own, not realizing at first that it was Dave who fell and was also hurt.

“The fall knocked the wind out of me and I hurt my shoulder and I wasn't breathing there for a second,” Dave said. “And then, all I heard was the crowd yelling, 'Get up! Get up!'”

A crowd of more than 2,000 people attended the event, said Sunday River resort spokeswoman Darcy Liberty.

Standing near the finish line, Lacey's mom, Kayleen Stackhouse of Alfred, said she was one of those yelling for her son-in-law to complete the run.

“He had ruptured his spleen a couple of years ago, so I was worried about it, but I had my eyes on the clock and it was 50 seconds and I yelled, 'Get up! Get up!'” Stackhouse said.

“I was kind of mad at myself because I wanted to break the 50-second mark,” Dave said. “It was like running the 400-meter. I was upset and I felt like I was going to throw up.”

He said he was glad their heat, which put them in first place, came early in the competition that fielded 41 two-person teams, because it gave them time to nurse their injuries before the run-off between the two teams with the best times after the first round.

The Castros next hurdle would be found not on the course, but in the form of the second-place team of Andy Gale of Cambridge, Mass., and Nicole Garcia of Somerville, Mass., who completed the course in 61.9 seconds in the first round.

In the run-off, the Castros finished without falling in 56.53 seconds, beating Gale's and Garcia's second-run time of 58.93 seconds. After finishing in first place once again, the Castros hugged and kissed and shouted exuberantly.

“When I came down that hill, I knew it was time to raise my hands and all that pain goes away,” Dave said after the run-off. “It was great! It was awesome!”

Like the Castros, Saturday's race was a first for Garcia and Gale, too.

“The crowd was great!” Gale said. “They keep you going.”

The Castros said the final obstacle after the water hole — a large dirt mound that emcee Hiram Towle dubbed “Mount Vesuvius” — was the toughest hazard. Lacey Castro called it a giant anthill. It was new this year, resort spokeswoman Liberty said.

But for Garcia and Gale, the worst hazard was the 10-yard-long, 3-foot-deep waterhole of “very slippery” mud and 38-degree water.

Prior to the race, Gale said they were hoping for a top 10 finish, but had their doubts after learning that the world's fittest man would be competing.

Joe Decker said he earned that title when he broke the world fitness record during the Guinness Book of World Record's 24-hour Physical Fitness Challenge in 2000.

The Deckers, however, took a spill in the water hazard and finished in 11th place with a time of 65.92 seconds.

The Castros also won five cases of Bud Light Golden Wheat beer based on Lacey's weight of 97 pounds, and five times her weight in cash: $485.

Additionally, they won the right to represent the nation in the 2010 Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi, Finland, where the event originated in 1991. They do have to pay for their trip themselves.

"I'm just very proud of both of them," Kayleen Stackhouse said. "There will be no getting her head through the door now that we have a celebrity in the family."

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Dave and Lacey Castro of Lewiston celebrate after winning the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River on Saturday.

Dave and Lacey Castro of Lewiston celebrate after winning the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River on Saturday. The couple, competing for the first time, beat Andy Gale and Nicole Garcia of Massachusetts by 2.4 seconds during the run-off to capture the championship.

Harding Bush of Auburn carries his wife Beth during the 10th Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River on Saturday.

Greg Frost carries Paige Bradley through the water obstacle during the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River on Saturday.

Stephen Rizner, left, carries Orianna Prescott over the log obstacle while racing against the "World's Fittest Man" Joe Decker and his wife, Nicole, during the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River on Saturday.

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