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Milk and tossed cookies

Original publication: July 31, 2005

Christopher Murtagh took a break from drinking his gallon of chocolate milk to catch his breath and consider his strategy.

"This is my second year competing," the 20-year-old Rockland Community College student from Pearl River said of the fifth annual Gallon Challenge. "Last year, I was a novice and ended up drinking too fast and losing it. I'm going steady. My strategy is to not speed it up at all."

The event, which took place yesterday at Rockland Lake State Park, is a contest that three Nanuet teenagers created. Contestants have one hour to drink as much of a gallon of whole milk as they can without vomiting. The person who drinks the most wins.

Peter Ubriaco, 21, co-creator of the Gallon Challenge, explained how he thought of the idea.

"It basically started five years ago with myself, my brother and my friend Pat," he said. "We were on vacation at the beach and we thought about how sick you would get if you drank a gallon of seawater. We ended up deciding that we would like to drink a gallon of milk, and that year we held the first Gallon Challenge."

As the event steadily garnered more interest over the years, Ubriaco decided that he would transform it into a charity event. The money raised in this year's Gallon Challenge will be donated to a malnutrition or bone health charity of the winner's choice.

There was a $5 entry fee, and Ubriaco personally collected $175 in pledges. He collected money from his friends, family, local businesses and his dentist.

"I figured he would know about milk and tooth health," Ubriaco said.

In all, $250 was raised.

Anthony Kemp, 19, of Nanuet, who has competed for two years, said this is a unique fundraiser.

"It's a great thing to do something stupid with your friends and give money to charity," Kemp said.

Mike Comparetto, 18, of Nanuet has competed the past five years. He said the fundraising aspect added another element.

"I think this turns it from us being a bunch of stupid kids to us actually doing something," he said.

Ubriaco hopes to turn the Gallon Challenge into a nonprofit organization.

Participants said they envision the program growing in the years to come.

"Ultimately I think it will turn into a big fundraiser," said Pat Widmayer, a co-creator of the Gallon Challenge.

"I want to be in Madison Square Garden with a million screaming fans watching us drink milk and donating tons of money," Comparetto said. "That is my dream for the Gallon Challenge."

The 13 contestants took different approaches to the challenge based on their individual strengths and weaknesses.

"I've been training for about a week, drinking about three glasses of milk a day," said 7-year-old Mike Harrington of Nanuet.

Comparetto, who blamed his consistent losses in the challenge on a weak stomach, said the key to success is pacing.

"Slow and steady so you don't upset your stomach too much," he cautioned.

Many competitors did not follow Comparetto's advice and attempted to chug their gallons of milk when they began to feel queasy.

With 40 minutes of the contest remaining, 18-year-old Michael Ubriaco of Nanuet, Peter's brother, decided to gulp his gallon as quickly as possible.

"My stomach is telling me no more, but I'm telling it way more," he said. "I feel so happy that people are going to get money from us doing this, but my stomach feels terrible."

He was the first to be disqualified for vomiting.

Vincent Murphy, 19, a former Nanuet resident who moved to New Jersey, was in the lead for the majority of the contest. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about being sick he described this as the "milk zone."

During the last 20 minutes of the contest, several competitors succumbed to their nausea, and only eight remained in the final minute.

In the last 45 seconds, Murphy gulped almost all of his remaining milk to win the challenge.

So, how did he feel about his big win?

"I feel like someone kicked me in the chest," he said, before vomiting into a trash can.

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