VIDALIA &8212; You spent most

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; You spent most of the morning and all afternoon getting your team&8217;s booth, food and other arrangements taken care of for Relay For Life.

You then cook, serve and walk a few laps before everything starts to give out.

Relax, go home, you&8217;ve done all you can do for your team; it&8217;s time to hand the baton to the night shift.

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And though you may take issue with some of the music, you can&8217;t say so because, hey, they are helping to fight cancer, aren&8217;t they? 12:30 a.m. With traffic on the track easing, Elnora Loretta Riley is poised to repeat as laps-completed champion.

&8220;I did 112 last year, and I just hit 117,&8221; she said.

The look in her eye and her brisk pace make you believe her when she says she wants to do it.

She admits to being a regular at aerobics classes and says she&8217;s &8220;in pretty good shape.&8221;

Whispers that she is something more than a casual exerciser are corroborated by her husband, Mt. Carmel Pastor Raymond Riley, who calls her &8220;well-trained.&8221; 12:36

Riley&8217;s main competition, 2004 winner &8212; and fellow 112-lap veteran Sammy Lewis &8212; is several laps behind but feeling good. His strategy allows for pit stops only for the port-o-potty.

Under no circumstances could Lewis imagine himself breaking out a walk, even if it would bring him victory.

&8220;I&8217;m too old to do any running,&8221; he said.

Short of running, Lewis said the only thing that could stop him was his wife telling him it is time to go home.

A classic test of wills will play itself out over the coming hours.

1 a.m. Although Team ATTACK &8212; Active Teens Totally Against Cancer Krewe &8212; is, well, active, they are walking with a bit more purpose this year. Their T-shirts honor the fight their Vidalia High School classmate Paige Staggs is waging against lymphoma, and they are more committed than ever to the cause.

&8220;It&8217;s opened a lot of our eyes, there are a lot of people our age that get cancer, it&8217;s everywhere,&8221; Hunter Moffitt said.

The team from Trinity Episcopal went by the name Kyle&8217;s Krewe in solidarity with their friend Kyle Dunaway, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.

1:30 a.m.

Team Daisy members JoAnn and David Cupit are struggling in their effort to raise enough money to shave one another&8217;s head.

According to their pact, the first one to raise $500 gets to shave the other; if both top the mark, both go bald.

They are stuck in the mid $200 range, and things aren&8217;t looking good.

Help arrives in the form of 19-year-old Jessica Vines, who volunteers to have her head shaved in memory of her recently deceased grandmother, Mary Ann Fairbanks.

&8220;My grandmother died a year ago, and I never got to say goodbye to her,&8221; she said. &8220;This is kind of my send off.&8221;

JoAnn Cupit has just as personal a reason for wanting to lose her hair.

A close friend, just two weeks shy of five years in remission, suddenly fell ill and was returned to chemotherapy.

&8220;So I thought, I&8217;ve got to do something radical. If I can help someone else from losing their hair by raising money for research, then I&8217;m happy to do it,&8221; she said. &8220;It might even be my child&8217;s.&8221; Vines&8217; act of heroism seems to only steel the Cupits&8217; resolve to raise the money.

Lewis drops out of the race after 129 laps, a personal best and enough to win the last two years.

But not this year.

Riley is on l70 and showing no sign of slowing down.

&8220;My baby&8217;s out there, so I&8217;m going to walk with her.&8221;

3 a.m. Wilma Biggs, a breast cancer survivor up way past any reasonable person&8217;s bedtime, doesn&8217;t seem the least bit tired.

&8220;It&8217;s just great to see everybody doing the same thing for such a good cause.

2:46 a.m. The Cupits, after one final fundraising trip around the track, go for it.

David is not as excited as his wife, but he knows what&8217;s good for him.

&8220;That&8217;s what she wants to do; it means a lot to her,&8221; he said.

Manning the shears is none other than Vines, who enjoys the work.

&8220;I used to cut hair,&8221; she says.

Much hair was cut.

3:30 a.m. &8220;Assume the position: bend over and grab your ankles,&8221; booms the address system.

Surely whatever has happened to prompt this order couldn&8217;t merit corporal punishment.

&8220;Get ready for the chimp race,&8221; the announcer finishes.


Britton & Koontz ekes out a third place victory over Co-Lin in a special &8220;do-over&8221; because of a dead heat in the primary.

The speakers, which once filled the air with the mellifluous sounds of Maggie Brown, now thumps L.L. Cool J as the (by now much younger) crowd does line dances.

Relay classics like potato golf and don&8217;t break the chain follow.

Riley surpasses the 200-lap mark.

4:15 a.m. The batons of only 10 teams are still circling the track. Most sensible people are home.

Barry Loy, all-night veteran of every relay, walks the track.

&8220;We&8217;ve all been touched by cancer and it&8217;s good to take yourself out of your comfort zone for a day and see what they go through.&8221;

5:07 a.m. &8220;Barrrrbara, wake uuuup,&8221; the address system coos.

Barbara, sound asleep in a camping chair in front of the stage, does not wake up.

Five batons circle the track. Riley is on her 230th lap.

6 a.m. Riley is nowhere to be seen. Hopefully she&8217;s not walking home.