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Competitive eater fails to conquer the Hail Mary Challenge

Saturday, May 21, 2011 | 7:37 p.m. CDT; updated 5:40 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 22, 2011
Randy Santel pauses before giving up a burger-eating challenge at Stadium Grill on Saturday, May 21. Santel had 1.2 pounds of food left.

COLUMBIA — On Saturday morning, Randy Santel had two protein shakes and a gallon of water. The night before, he had 12 pounds of watermelon.

It was all a part of the strategy.

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Saturday, Santel, a food-challenge enthusiast, set out to be the first person to conquer the Hail Mary Challenge at Stadium Grill at Stadium Boulevard and College Avenue.

"We've had over 100 people attempt this in the one and a half years we've been open, including MU trainers, high school kids and a wrestler," Ron Coleman, managing partner at Stadium Grill said.

No one has succeeded.

The Hail Mary Challenge requires the challenger to eat a burger with five pounds of meat, topped with bacon, pulled pork, three cheeses, onion straws and fried eggs, served with a pound of fries. Time limit: One hour. If the challenger wins, Stadium Grill pays for the meal, names it after the challenger and rewards them with a $50 gift certificate every month for one year or until they are dethroned.

Santel, a 24-year-old concrete estimator from Overland Park, Kan., has won 49 different food challenges since he began eating competitively in March 2010. He recently completed Lee Street Deli's Wall of Flame Challenge. He had only lost three times, until Saturday.

"I hate losses, but hopefully one day I'll be back," Santel said.

Ten minutes into the challenge, Santel had finished all of the toppings, leaving him with just the beef patties, bun and fries. Twenty minutes in, just half of a beef patty, the bun and fries remained. At 30 minutes, half of the bun and fries still sat on the tray. He began to slow down, taking smaller bites and more time to chew. He sifted through the fries, picking them up and dropping them. He was finished.

Santel came closer to finishing than any competitor before him, according to Coleman. The food weighed in at 6.9 pounds at the beginning of the challenge, and when Santel stopped eating, one pound and two ounces remained.

"It was big, but maybe I've been doing too many challenges," Santel said, regarding the elasticity of his stomach.

Going into the challenge, Santel had plans to donate his winnings to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. Despite the loss, Stadium Grill still donated $600 in gift cards to the food bank.

"We are just thrilled he wanted to do this for us," Bobbie Kincade, director of development at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, said. "He's a celebrity at the Food Bank and he doesn't even know it."


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