Hands gripping the handle of a shopping cart, Jeff Marsten stood poised behind a black-and-white checkered strip of tape near the entrance of the Weis Markets on Deacon Road at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
"Give me a countdown to 10 seconds," Kim McGregor said to Angela Beachy.
"Ten, nine, eight," began Beachy. When she reached one, the 63-year-old Stafford County man was off and running down the coffee aisle. Right behind were the two women, who work for Weis, along with representatives from the Virginia Lottery and several customers, including his wife, Donna McCracken.
"Let's go, Jeff!" they cheered.
Marsten reached first for boxes of Dunkin' donuts K-cups and Folgers coffee, which he tossed into the cart.
To fill it with $750 worth of groceries in three minutes, a prize he'd won in Virginia Lottery's Mega Grocery Shopping Dash. He could select anything except alcohol, tobacco, gift cards or money orders.
McGregor, Weis's director of customer experience, followed close behind him, shooting video with her iPhone for Weis and adding commentary.
"He's a man on a mission," she said. "I think Jeff likes coffee."
Marsten grabbed some creamer for him and his wife, and a couple bottles of Hershey's syrup for their 3-year-old nephew. Then he headed over to the seafood section for bags of shrimp.
"Two minutes left, Jeff," McGregor cautioned.
Marsten, who'd been rear-ended in a car crash Friday and was suffering from back pain, whipped his cart over to the meat section to pick up steaks and cuts of pork destined for the family's freezer.
"Jeff may be grilling this weekend," McGregor said. "Value packs. Way to go!"
Marsten headed down another aisle and began grabbing a host of other items, including Hot Pockets, to round out his run.
"Thirty seconds, Jeff!" McGregor cried. "Thirty seconds, Jeff!"
He added the last few items into the basket, then took off for the checkered tape with five seconds left. He crossed it to the sound of cheers just as his time was up.
"Did you get everything on your wife's list?" McGregor asked.
"Yes," Marsten said, slightly breathless. "Everything I wanted was on the low shelves."
The final total, after he scanned his Weis rewards card, was $542.12. He got the rest, $207.88, on Weis gift cards, along with nearly 500 in Weis reward points.
"That will be the benchmark for the dashes," said Jane Allen, Virginia Lottery's business development manager. She plans to use footage from the GoPro camera strapped to the front of Marsten's cart to promote the lottery.
This is the first year that the independent state agency, whose profits go to K–12 public education, has offered the Mega Grocery Shopping Dash. It was inspired by "Supermarket Sweep," a TV game show that featured a live, timed race through a supermarket.
Virginia Lottery teamed up with six grocery chains, including Weis Markets and Food Lion, for its version. It was open to anyone who'd purchased $10 or more in Mega Millions tickets through a promotion that ran from June 1 to July 6 at participating grocery stores. Information at the end of the receipts had to be entered in the My Game Room section of Virginia Lottery's website.
Two $750 winners were chosen for each grocery chain, and a total of 174 gift cards worth $250 each went to second-place winners at all the chains.
Kira Towle of Stafford is the other Mega Grocery Shopping Dash winner at a Weis Markets location. She'll do her dash Tuesday at the Weis Markets at 2612 Jefferson Davis Highway. Six other area residents won $250 Weis Markets gift cards in the promotion.
The Food Lion winners live in the Richmond area, and Allen said that her office hasn't been able to set the dates with the company. Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion is too busy dealing with issues relating to Hurricane Florence.
Marsten, a building supervisor for Rockingham Construction Co., said he plays the lottery a lot but has never won more than a few dollars at a time. He didn't think he'd won anything this time after checking the list of winners on valottery.com. It listed a Jeffrey M. of Sterling, but he'd moved to Stafford. It didn't occur to him that he'd forgotten to change the address in his account on the website until Virginia Lottery contacted him by email.
"I went back and checked, and my name was there," he said.
Marsten and his wife normally shop at the Weis on U.S. 17, which is close to their home. That location closes Nov. 1, however, so he was told that he could do his grocery dash at one of the other Weis Markets in Stafford.
He chose the one at 282 Deacon Road, and he and his wife checked it out Tuesday evening so they could plot his run. He said he planned to take his time and have fun with it, especially since he'd get gift cards if he didn't spend the entire $750. He ended up with three of them.
"We'll come back for sales," Marsten's wife said happily, as the cashier handed them over.
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