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Puzzle derby pieces together large crowd

The Puzzle Ninjas consult the box to find where to place their pieces. From left, Roxanne Hoechst, Destiny Kasper and Marcy Peterson. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

The Clyde Ironworks was filled with over 200 competitors for the third annual Duluth Puzzle Derby on March 26.

Last year's competition drew 28 teams to Duluth to puzzle as fast as possible. This year, the event expanded to include 41 teams in a morning contest and 35 teams for an afternoon competition and had a record 230 participants.

"The registration fees allowed us to raise $1,550 to support 4-H programming in South St. Louis County," said event organizer Valerie Coit.

The process is simple: All the teams get the same 500 piece puzzle and race to finish it for first, second and third place prizes.

"It's so much fun to get together with other people that love jigsaw puzzles and you still feel like you accomplished something when you finish the puzzle in just a few hours," said fellow event organizer Kaylinn Stormo.

The fastest puzzle completion time was 31 minutes and 48 seconds by The Collectors, a team from the Twin Cities consisting of three reigning champs. Led by Mark Geis, the team beat their time from last year's puzzle by four minutes. The other winning four-person teams were Wizard Express at 34 minutes and 43 seconds and E=MCHammer at 44 minutes and 34 seconds.

The first place three-person team was The New and Old Times at just under 59 minutes, They Don't Allow Puzzles in Here took second at one hour and Do a Little Jigsaw took third at one hour and 15 minutes.

The Polar Birds took first place in the two-person competition, clocking in at 44 minutes and 29 seconds. Lady Bloodsport just barely stole second place at 46 minutes and 17 seconds and M&M took third with their time of 46 minutes and 36 seconds. That's a difference of only 19 seconds.

Perhaps puzzling skills are genetic? Sisters Robin Decaire and Betsy Parker work with friend Anne Dugan in the three-person competition in the morning. Decaire and Parker were the winners of the two-person contest that afternoon. They finished first with a time of 44 minutes, 29 seconds. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

Steve, Elise, Barb and Isabelle Sydow work together to complete the 500-piece puzzle. Their team was given the Whippersnapper Award for being a first-time family team with a fast time. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

Returning champions "The Collectors" consists of Mark Geis, Mike Helland, Phil Ehresmann and Cynthia Smith. They finished in 31 minutes and 48 seconds, beating their previous record. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

4-H members Maddox and Mason work with their mother, Jolee Wiediger, to complete their puzzle. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

Puzzlers work to beat the clock and complete their puzzles the fastest. This year's puzzle derby drew over 230 competitors. (Photo by Valerie Coit)

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176