"I would've been in it, but I was swimming," she said.
Before the pulling commenced, Emily and Riley, 3, teetered around the sign-in area as final contestants and late registrants made their way to the event table to sign-up and pay their $1 entry fee. The growing crowd around her didn't make Emily nervous; she bounced around and wasn't afraid to comment on the impending pull, even if she wasn't entirely confident in a victory.
"I don't know if I'm going to win, really. You have to pedal fast. I like tractors, but I like horses way better, anyway," Emily laughed.
Riley resorted to a much different pre-pull strategy. While Emily was a chatterbox, Riley was silent, obviously daunted when faced with the weight of the event. Emily seemed to feel like it was a forgone conclusion she would defeat her little brother and already was making excuses for his expected loss.
"This is the first time he's done this," she said, looking at her silent brother.
Emily grew more confident as the time trickled off of the clock before the race. And as Event Coordinator Don Martin extended the sign-up period for the pull to 7:15 p.m. to accommodate stragglers, Emily made a bold prediction.
"I think I'm going to pull my body weight," she said, while revealing she'd been practicing since Tuesday.
She felt comfortable enough to think about what she might do in celebration of a victory.
"I think I'll get my nails done, or maybe go to Build-a-Bear."
The moment of truth
As 7:15 rolled around, and Martin cut off the sign up period, their mother, Leanna Miller, couldn't help but smile as her children readied to climb aboard the mini-tractor.
"It's just really busy to be their mother," she joked about her very active kids before the race. "But we do have a lot of fun."
In Emily and Riley's class, the first up for the evening, an unforeseen competitor in the form of Paige Eckler, 5, appeared and elected to go first in the pull. With ease, Paige quickly raised her 12 pound weights with little to no effort. Undeterred, Emily was up next. She matched Paige's accomplishment in equal time.
Riley, however, was a different story.
The 12 pounds proved to be a little too heavy, and his strategy of going backward to go forward fell flat. No matter, though, as Riley didn't seem to mind. He was smiling and laughing the whole time, even while sputtering in place.
Riley's elimination set the stage for a girlish showdown, and without delay, Paige readied herself to re-board the mini-tractor. Martin, while announcing his actions to the captivated and still-escalating crowd, added two more pounds to the sled.
The extra weight wasn't too much to hold back Paige. Again, she successfully completed a full-pull with what appeared to be no effort whatsoever. After her pull, she made the way for Emily, dusting off her hands as if to say, "all in a day's work."
Emily, resolved in place, next hopped back on the tractor. But despite her best straining and the encouraging coaching from Martin, Emily's sled box stopped moving upward after she traveled only 6 feet, 9 inches.
The look of disappointment on Emily's face, however, instantly vanished when she was awarded her shiny gold trophy for second place. Riley was equally pleased, running to find his father, trophy in tow and swinging wildly.
In her post-pull interview, Emily reiterated her own personal belief: "It's not whether or not you win or lose, it's how you play the game."
The event's victor was elated with her achievement as well. Paige remained all smiles as she complimented the difficulty of her competition.
"It was really hard to win this," she admitted, clutching what she said was her favorite part of winning - a first-place trophy.
* * *
Garrard County Fair results
Pedal Pull - Class 1, 35-45 pounds: Paige Ecklers, first place; Emily Miller, second place; and Riley Miller, third place. Class 2, 46-65 pounds: Teddi Kohli, first place; Brayden Sebastian, second place; Dylan Adams, third place; and Thomas Robb, fourth place. Class 3, 61-80 pounds: Tyler Staton, first place. Class 4, 81-100 pounds: Hagan Penman, first place; Travis Robinson, second place; and Johnathon Byrd, third place.
Truck Pull - Open Four-Wheel Drive: Richard Sewell, Ryan Phillips and Nathan Sewell. Pro Two-Wheel Drive: Jay Holt, Charlie Holt and Anthony Young. Light-Super Tractor Class 6000: Jeff Medley, Chris Blackburn and John Knasel. Diesel: Jeff Gammon, Justin Riester and Jake Riester.