Peterkin finishes fifth year in Fringe

Fifth-year architecture student Becky Peterkin surely knows how to let the good times roll. As a buggy driver for Fringe for all five of her years here at Carnegie Mellon, the King George, Va. native has gotten to both design and drive record-setting buggies.

Peterkin has devoted much of her college career to Fringe’s buggy team, both driving and building their buggies. Although she hasn’t participated much this past year due to time restraints and developing allergies to a few raw materials, she was a mechanic during her sophomore and junior years. “I didn’t do too much in the way of hard machining, but I like to think I was helpful as an extra person who could put on and take off the wheels and know how to do somewhat complicated wraps in the build process,” she said.

Peterkin drove and helped build Fringe’s buggy Bonsai, which won second place in the buggy design competition in 2011. For Peterkin, Bonsai was her biggest accomplishment: “I’m very proud of having a large role in building Bonsai and then getting to drive her to a record-setting freeroll.” Bonsai was the first buggy to do a sub-50-second freeroll.

“Becky is most certainly one of our best drivers and really was a force to be reckoned with when she drove Bonsai,” said Fringe president junior Taryn Monteleone.

Peterkin’s ability to be an active member of a buggy team has exceeded all of her pre-college expectations. Although she had heard a bit about the sport and knew that shorter girls usually got to drive the buggies, there were still many unknowns about the tradition. “Coming to CMU, I knew almost nothing about Buggy. I remember being nervous about finding frat guys I could actually talk to about driving. I didn’t even know that there were independent teams until I was recruited onto one,” Peterkin said. “I just knew it was a sport where being short was not only helpful, but let you get the most fun job.”

After she joined the team, Peterkin quickly caught the bug for buggy, and has been heavily involved ever since, adopting the daily schedule of a hardcore buggy driver.

In the first few weeks of the fall, before rolls actually start, Peterkin goes to recruitment events, particularly when the Fringe team is looking for a new driver, which involves “a few weeks of Thursday night half-price visits and other organized things to find new Frinjas,” she said. As for her regular weekly schedule, “The main day-to-day differences are of course actual rolls, but that does have some impact on the rest of the week,” she said. “I usually go to bed Friday night around 10. 5 a.m. always shows up a lot earlier than it seems like it will.”

In the spring there are regular build sessions, as well as push practices every night at 11 p.m. in addition to weekend rolls. Generally the team has enough drivers that each driver only needs to come out two or three times during the week instead of all five days. “I’m not sure my shoulders could handle it otherwise,” Peterkin said.

As one of Carnegie Mellon’s most experienced buggy drivers, she takes “pride in teaching our new drivers and mechanics, so the buggy tradition can carry on,” she said.

“She’s been an incredible resource for the younger drivers,” Monteleone said. “A bunch of drivers have come and gone, but Becky has stayed with us. She teaches them a lot, and really is a mentor.”

Fringe driver first-year Gillian Rosen agreed. “Becky brings the wisdom and experience of five years of driving and an excellent line,” she said. “Plus a laser pointer and a cozy bathrobe for cold mornings.”

“Becky makes all of the drivers feel very comfortable with who they are,” Monteleone said. “She is a good friend to all the drivers.”

Peterkin’s favorite part of the Sweepstakes experience is the team that she is so dedicated to. “Even though it sounds corny, I’m just super grateful for a group of friends that I would have never had otherwise,” she said.

The team often “gets together for food, enjoying each other’s company.” The day before the big buggy race, the Fringe squad holds a big pasta party, watches old race footage, and decorates old uniforms. “It’s a blast,” Peterkin said.

Although Peterkin is unsure of what the future holds in terms of a career, she is looking for jobs and is sure that “if I find something in Pittsburgh, there’s a very good chance I’ll come back [to Fringe] as an alumni.”

Although last weekend was the final Sweepstakes of Peterkin’s career, her legacy is “one of record-breaking speed and victory,” Rosen said. Peterkin drove for both the women’s and men’s Fringe C teams, achieving a final time of 2:25.585 for the men and 3:11.434 in the preliminaries for the women.

Peterkin would love “for buggy in general to continue its recent trend of growing, both in the numbers of teams involved and the amount of people truly committed to making rolls happen each year.” In addition, the die-hard “Frinja” would “like to see the team continue excelling in the design competition, and for Fringe to return to top speeds,” she said. “And of course, I’d like to see ‘Fringe’ written on the driver-sized first-place trophy a few more times.”