Bethel student to participate in national bagging contest
by Aaron Charles
Maybe you thought the only choice in the bagging line at the grocery was paper or plastic. However, for one Bethel student, those bags have opened up a wealth of other opportunities. Natalie Weiss is a junior at Bethel and works as a bagger at Martin’s Supermarket in Granger where she has worked since 2009. Not only is she a bagger, but she is one of the best in the country. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Weiss will compete in the National Grocer’s Association Best Bagger Championship in Las Vegas. She said there is more pressure than many realize. “(Bagging) is pretty intense, more intense than most people would think” said Weiss. “You have a lot to think about, and it’s more than just speed. Speed is important, but it’s also about distribution of weight and placement of items.” This is not Weiss’s first time around the block. Not only has she been a bagger since 2009, but she also has experience in competitions. Every year, her store holds its own competition along with the other 21 Martin’s stores in Michiana. The winners from each store move on to a corporate bag-off which then leads to a state competition. Natalie competed first in 2009 and again in 2010. Then she attended Purdue University and took a couple years off from competing. She decided to get back into it this year, and it paid off. “I didn’t take it seriously at first, but then this year I did and I won,” she said. So what does the competition entail? First 30 to 40 items are placed on a table, and the contestants are given three bags to put them in. After bagging the items, contestants are judged on speed, weight distribution and placement. For example, glass items should not be placed next to each other, and they should not be on the outside of the bag. Contestants are also judged on style, appearance and attitude. If you’re still wondering what makes this competition noteworthy, how about this? The winner takes home a $10,000 prize and past winners have appeared on the David Letterman Show. Weiss had to admit that the money is a motivating factor. “I’m mainly motivated to do well for the store, but the money wouldn’t hurt,” she said. She has already won $650 from the store, corporate and state competitions. However, the excitement of the competition definitely draws her in as well. “There’s a lot of nervous excitement when you compete,” Weiss said. "You definitely feel the adrenaline flowing.” The adrenaline will actually be flowing well before Weiss even starts the competition – she has never flown on a plane before. Once she gets to Vegas, she will be staying at The Mirage where the competition is held. Whether she wins the competition or not, Weiss wants to make the trip memorable, so she plans on heading to the Grand Canyon after the competition is over.