AUGUSTA — Joey Chestnut, eight-time champion of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, spent years training to perfect the technique, and stretch his stomach, to become an individual dynasty in the world of competitive eating.

Augusta Animal Control Officer Francois Roodman, who on Sunday polished off a 2-pound taco with all the fixings in less than four minutes, giving Augusta police a convincing win over their Waterville counterparts in the first-ever Battle of the Badges at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant in Augusta, took a decidedly less strategic approach.

“Just bite for bite and swallow,” Roodman said of his technique. “I had a small breakfast this morning and I just came here and ate.”

The taco eating contest, held in honor of National Taco Day, was held at Margaritas’ 25 locations across the Northeast. This was the first year the Augusta restaurant has held the competition, according to Manager Jake White.

The restaurant donates a total of $350 to the teams’ favorite charities. Both teams on Sunday were battling for Special Olympics, which provides athletic competitions for people with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s a good cause,” Waterville Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said. “There are no losers either way.”

The departments have made a habit of calling each other out, such as during last year’s ice bucket challenge for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Rumsey said the challenges are the byproduct of a close working relationship between the departments.

“We get along very well,” he said.

Both departments entered the competition with more than a little bravado. Each fired good-natured jabs at the other through Facebook.

Sgt. Christian Behr, on Augusta’s page, assured victory and, in Spanish, cautioned Waterville to prepare themselves.

Rumsey, meanwhile, on Waterville’s Facebook page, claimed Augusta had walked right into its own trap.

“There’s no way we can lose,” Rumsey said.

As it turned out, however, there was no way for Waterville to win. Led by Roodman’s blistering time of 3 minutes 41 seconds, every Augusta officer finished his taco in less than 8 minutes and long before the first Waterville officer could clean his plate.

“We don’t feed them in Augusta,” Deputy Chief Jared Mills said, describing his department’s secret. “They don’t eat.”

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey marveled at Augusta’s performance.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Every single of one of them beat us. That was simply more than I could eat.”

Massey, in his best deadpan, blamed his metabolism, which he said has slowed as he has aged.

“I should have gotten a handicap of a quarter-pound just to have a chance,” he joked.

Rumsey, the first person to finish for Waterville, said his team prepared for the event by not eating so there would be as much room in their stomachs as possible.

“Everyone’s hungry,” he said. “I’ve never eaten anything this big.”

The Taco Gigante, which comes in a 12-inch shell, is filled with 2 pounds of everything from bacon to queso sauce.

“It’s essentially the kitchen sink of tacos,” White said.

Augusta police Detective Matthew Estes said going into the competition that his strategy was simple determination.

“Just go,” he said. “Don’t stop.”

While some of the competitors starved themselves in preparation, Estes, like Roodman, decided to fuel up for the competition by eating a few hours before.

“You have to expand the belly and then let it get empty,” he said.

Augusta Officer Todd Nyberg took an early lead in the competition, but Roodman quickly made up ground.

“He’s focused,” Augusta’s Chief Robert Gregoire said as friends and relatives cheered on the competitors. “He’s not even looking away.”

He was forking in the last few bites as the other competitors still were still holding on to a quarter or more of their tacos.

“Buddy, you’re way ahead. You can slow down,” Mills said to Roodman. “You have to keep it down.”

White said he never imagined anyone would finish the taco as quickly as Roodman.

“That was way faster than we thought,” White said. “We were actually hoping it would last a little longer.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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