What: Obstacle course show featuring local resident Mary Beverly
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Crazy. That's what everyone calls Mary Beverly.
She teaches music at Mount Vernon Elementary School in North Hall. She's married with a 4-year-old daughter. But on Jan. 21, she ran up a conveyor belt toward three huge red balls — and went splat "right into the first ball and right down the front side of it and into the water," Beverly said.
She was a contestant on ABC's "Wipeout," which pits 24 people against one another and one ridiculous obstacle course. Those with the best times move on to the next round.
Beverly survived with a time of seven minutes and 32 seconds — not enough to get her into the second round, but hopefully enough to put her face on prime-time television. The episode airs at 8 p.m. Thursday.
"I was so exhausted by the time I finished the qualifier I was pretty much fine with that as soon as they said ‘You're done for the day,'" she said last week while sitting in her classroom. "... I was really beat up at that point."
Beverly's journey began in October. She and her husband flew to Burbank, Calif., for an open call audition. And she brought a red banner showing about 1,000 faces of the students and others who support her.
"It was more of a pipe dream when I first started wanting to do it," she said. She thought it would be fun, exciting, but that her chances would be slim.
Two months later, excitement rippled through her school. She was going to be on the show.
"It's really just been kind of a rallying thing for the whole school," fourth-grade teacher Staci Wagner said. Children hugged her, high-fived her and drew her pictures and cards.
"We've all been behind her 100 percent, even though we all thought she was crazy," said Kathy Whitmire, physical education teacher at the school.
At 6 a.m. Jan. 21, Beverly arrived on set, about 45 minutes north of Los Angeles.
She met the other contestants in a plain white trailer, and they went to view the course from the top of a hill.
"Our first thought was the balls; let's see what those balls look like," Beverly said. "And we all started getting really worried because they looked much further apart in person than they do on the show."
But what the contestants couldn't see was the course in motion. Which parts would move and how was still a surprise.
Each put their name in a bucket and drew for their place in line. Beverly was 10th.
"As they would come back off the course, of course they would be dripping wet and covered with all sorts of things," she said. "And your nerves are just really, really going at this time. You're so excited."
When it was her turn, Beverly ran down the first ramp toward a steep staircase. She could see a zip line at the top. She thought if nothing else, she'd get to zip line.
Then an arm swung and she was in the water. It was her first of many wipeouts.
She next faced a big slide, with a big platform that swings to the left and right.
Then came the big red balls.
"In my mind, I really thought I had the big balls figured out — how I would run up the platform, just get sort of a running start on the first one as opposed to just running up and bouncing on it and falling in the water," she said. "Then this season ... they decide to add a moving conveyor belt sidewalk as you run up to the big balls."
The change threw her off. And once again she was in the water.
Then came the banana split kitchen. As she climbed through oversized model ovens, fruit started flying.
"The bananas are just coming left and right, hitting you on the head, making the platform very sticky and slippery," she said.
After tackling giant rolling pins that jerked back and forth, she was finished.
She hasn't touched a banana since that day.
With a bruise stretching from her hip to her knee, she returned to Gainesville. Without a winning finish, the students were still thrilled.
"When she came back they were asking a million questions," said Connie Daniels, principal at Mount Vernon.
Beverly was just glad to still have all her teeth.
"That was my biggest fear."