On May 19, a world record was established at the New Port Richey Recreational and Aquatic Center. Justin Lawrence, 25, and Jeffrey Baker, 19, played pickleball for 24 hours, 8 minutes. Their marathon efforts qualified them to be included in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Pickleball is a combination of ping pong, tennis and badminton. It is played on a badminton-sized court, uses the serving rules of tennis and the counting rules of ping pong.
Last year, the pair attempted the same record, but was disqualified by Guinness for taking an extended time out. This year, under the watchful eyes of the facility's digital surveillance cameras, their times were precisely documented. Also monitoring the playing time was Helen Caranova, a former supervisor of the rec center. Like a drill sergeant, Caranova shouted to Lawrence and Baker when their break time was nearing its end. To earn a five-minute break, they were required to play for an entire hour. If the game they were competing in was in progress, their break was delayed until one of the players scored 21 points.
Afterward, the two competitors exited the gymnasium to the cheers of dozens of friends and supporters.
"It was a personal challenge to be in the Guinness Book of World Records," said Lawrence. "This year, we had more confidence that we could do it."
To prepare for the grueling match, the young athletes did weight and cardio training for six days a week. One of the things they did not prepare for was Lawrence's chest infection.
"When we were going hard, I was coughing a lot," he said.
Baker also had his physical challenges. An ankle injury and blisters from his new sneakers left him with a noticeable limp.
Despite the physical and mental strain of competing around the clock, Baker was in good spirits.
"This taught me that discipline and will power can overcome all the pain we went through," Baker said.
Both felt that qualifying for the world record book will help them down the road.
"We achieved something that we will have all our lives," Lawrence said. "The rec center also benefits from the publicity and from all the people who came here for the first time. We have a world-class facility."
For Caranova, it was like a mother seeing her children succeed beyond their dreams.
"Justin and Jeffrey are terrific role models that teens and adolescents look up to," she said. "They have recruited many youngsters to play basketball, swim or just be involved in organized activities, rather than walking in the streets and getting in trouble."