Piles of weights adding up to 1,035 pounds balanced on top of the linguini bridge built by Lizzie Williamson and Victoria Scott when a cracking sound filled the performing arts center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The 23 45-pound weights slid across the stage as their carefully-constructed linguini bridge collapsed, a spray of uncooked pasta littering the ground.

Contest founder and math teacher Ken DeBettencourt gives Victoria and Lizzie a thumbs up. — Mark Lovewell

But there was victory in defeat. Lizzie and Victoria’s bridge won the 19th annual linguini bridge contest Monday, holding 990 pounds without breaking.

“We built it sideways, so the top was built infused into the legs,” said Victoria, a freshman. She and Lizzie based the design off a successful bridge built in a past year, adding in their own details like triangles for arch support. “We put a lot of time and work into it and I’m happy it worked out,” Victoria said.

The linguini bridge contest is the brain child of math teacher Ken DeBettencourt, who said he’s seen stronger bridges every year of the contest. For the last several years some of the pasta bridges have held more than 1,000 pounds. The strongest bridge at the first contest back in 1998 held 115 pounds, which now wouldn’t get past the second round. Last year’s winning bridge built by Graham Lewis held 1,170 pounds.

Tense moments waiting to see if bridges can handle the weight. — Mark Lovewell

Gordon Moore holds the school record at 2,175 pounds.

All of the bridges are made out of Prince Linguini and Elmer’s glue and must span at least five inches. The entire freshman class competes and upperclassmen who have competed before are welcome to enter as well. Only bridges that have successfully held 25 pounds compete on the stage.

“The main thing we’ve been studying is past bridges,” Mr. DeBettencourt said.

Mr. DeBettencourt offered commentary of contest action. — Mark Lovewell

Bridge designs were varied this year, some featuring a cross-hatch pattern, some with four legs, and a few that looked delicately beautiful. Out of the 78 that entered the first round of the contest, 52 made it to the second round where they were tested with 200 pounds of weight. Twenty-one made it to the third round, when the weight was piled on until they dropped.

Math teacher Melissa Braillard worked with Mr. DeBettencourt on the contest, and kept an auctioneer-like running commentary of the weights being added.

“The most important thing is to set the first weight centered on the block,” Mr. DeBettencourt coached James Breth and Andrew Karlysnki in round three. Three other teams and their bridges held 900 pounds and above, but no one could best Ms. Williamson and Ms. Scott, who sat on the edge of their seats as they watched the 12 teams that followed their performance.

As a sophomore, this is Ms. Williamson’s second time competing in the contest.

“I was crazy to do it again,” she said. “But I wanted to do it with my best friend.”