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Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
Students at Eisenhower Junior High try to set a record for the world's longest straw chain by linking together more than four miles of drinking straws in the school gym.

TAYLORSVILLE — Eisenhower Junior High students took on Guinness again Friday — this time, to break the world record for the longest straw chain.

And they did it. The students broke the old record of 3.87 miles, set by a school in Bridgehampton, N.Y., by linking 42,963 straws to make a chain 4.57 miles long, teacher Clayton Brough said late Friday. Students were planning to make a chain 8 miles long on the school gym floor between 1 and 10 p.m. Friday. More than 100,000 straight straws and 1,000 flexible ones inserted into each other were expected to do the trick.

The students already hold six world records — a world record within itself.

"I just get tingles — it's fun to see," P.E. teacher Denise Fiack said over thumping pop music as more than 125 teenagers shuffled about, folding one crimson straw into the next. "It brings tears to your eyes to see them succeed.

"It's something they can keep forever."

Eisenhower was crowned with the title for the world's biggest bread loaf — 307 pounds, browned in a Hercules oven used to cook missile casings — back in 1987.

Chasing world records — be it through Guinness, the Germany-based Book of Alternative World Records, or Ripley's Believe It or Not — has become an obsession since. Students have come to look forward to their chance to try.

"It's our last year here, so we want to make it memorable," ninth-grader Danielle Southworth said.

Eisenhower holds the records for the world's longest balloon chain (708 feet, made in one hour); the world's largest paper clip chain (22.17 miles); the world's fastest human conveyor belt (a 100-student line transferred an object in two minutes); the world's tallest ice cream cone (13 inches) and the world's tallest tower of pencils (1,466 pencils at 7 feet, 2.5 inches).

Students also have established the World Records for Schools Web site (www.worldrecordsforschools.org), offering tips for coordinating and certifying world records.

Engineers Friday were on hand to assist with Guinness certification procedures. Students also planned to send documentation and videotape to the alternative records book and Ripley's. They also can be certified under World Records for Schools.

The honors are great for students.

"(We'll) feel like we've accomplished something in life that's important," said ninth-grader Melissa Bateman.

Students have put in a lot of work leading up to the feat.

They spent 15 hours pulling out 120,000 individually wrapped straws before they could even get started. They also painted a couple of 2-by-4's, which were dotted with nails 1 inch apart, to wrap the straws around so the feat can be contained in a gymnasium floor.

By Friday afternoon, students appeared to have a long night ahead.

Science and math teacher Tom Sharpe had no doubts the students, who donated $10 to participate, would break the record. (Proceeds go to the American Red Cross.)

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But some were already getting tired two hours into the nine-hour project. Several brought pillows to sit or kneel on as the hours waned.

"It's a lot of work," student Daniel Hogan said. "It really gets to you after awhile."

The activity appeared to be more party than academics.

But think again, teachers said.

In the ice-cream tower, students applied physics and math skills to ensure the gelato didn't topple or melt too quickly. Students had to wade through reference books to pick out a feat, then make the appropriate contacts for certification, sponsors and media coverage.

"It teaches teamwork, logistics, problem-solving," Brough said. "It's actually learning more about how life is manipulated and (works) than you do sitting on your can somewhere."


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com