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Williamsport teen wins national tractor driving competition

September 24, 2000

Williamsport teen wins national tractor driving competition



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


While most high school students might be interested in cruising the local strips, 17 year-old Brooks Long is busy driving tractors on the family farm.

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Brooks, a Williamsport native and senior at Williamsport High School, has been driving farm equipment by himself since he was 9.

He says the skill came naturally to him.

"It's not really that you practice, it's just that you do it everyday," Brooks said.

His knack for the task has also paid off.

In mid-September Brooks won the Future Farmers of America-sponsored tractor driving contest at the Eastern National Livestock Show in Springfield, Mass., known as the "Big E."

He also won the county and state contests, which qualified him for the national competition. At the Big E Brooks went up against other state champions from 13 other eastern states.

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This is the third year Brooks has competed in the contests. He said he had some difficulties during his first contest but that his talent progressed as he got older.

"It seems to get easier and easier every year," he said.

His older brother, Lance Long, who took second place in the national competition a few years ago, said Brooks knows how to deal with being under the gun during a competition. He said it's a characteristic that probably helped Brooks win first place.

"Brooks relieves pressure real well," his brother said. "I get nervous."

Their father, Galen, also won second place years ago, according to Lance Long.

Winning the competition is no small feat, the brothers say.

Competitors must back a manure spreader through a figure eight obstacle course, back up in a 40-foot-long lane lined with poles without hitting the poles and backing a flatbed into a circle and then into a shed, leaving three inches of space on either side and in the back of the tractor. Competitors must perform the tasks in a certain amount of time.

"If you knock three poles over, you can pretty much kiss your first place good-bye," Lance Long said.

In addition, competitors must also take a written exam and a practical exam, in which they are given five minutes to identify parts of a tractor and whether any parts are missing.

"It's never a walk in the park," Lance Long said.

"City slickers probably wouldn't be able to pull out of the barn," Brooks said.

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