NEWRY, Maine — Rocco Andreozzi and partner Kim Wasko expected the competition to be tough, but knowing their adversaries may have improved their odds.

Andreozzi and Wasko of Bethel took first place at Sunday River’s 12th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River Ski Resort on Saturday. They finished the final run with a time of 49.64 seconds, shaving off 12.27 seconds from their winning time last year.

Their competition, David and Lacey Castro of Alfred, finished in second place again this year with a time of 52.39 seconds. The Castros improved their time by 12.48 seconds, almost 0.21 seconds better than Andreozzi and Wasko’s improvement, but not enough to put the Castros in first place.

Forty-seven couples competed in the event that qualifies the winner to run in the World Wife Carrying Championship. The Castros won first place in 2009 and traveled to Finland, where they placed fifth in the world championship.

The couple launched a fundraising campaign to pay for their trip to Finland by creating a new ice cream flavor at Shaker Pond Ice Cream. Recently, they added a log hurdle in their backyard for training.

Andreozzi and Wasko’s first run during Saturday’s event was 56.49 seconds, trailing the Castros’ first run of 53.80 seconds. In the head-to-head competition, Andreozzi and Wasko were able to improve their time by 6.85 seconds.

Jesse Wall and Christine Arsenault finished in third place with a best time of 57.38 seconds.

The start of the course ran uphill, bending to the right and bringing the couples up against a log hurdle. Once over the log stand, competitors dashed around the corner and downhill toward a large trench filled with muddy water called the Widow Maker.

A few men fell into the murky water, dumping their partners. Allan Gehant came close to dropping his wife, Katie Gehant, but was able to recover. His wife shouted, “I love you,” for his efforts in keeping her dry.

Before reaching the finish line, competitors had to maneuver over a sand pile.

The top two spots were honored with winning the wife’s weight in beer. A large seesaw scale was used with the wife on one end and cases of beer stacked on the other. The winning couples also won the wife’s weight times five in cash.

Andreozzi and Wasko received a check for $620 and nine cases of beer.

Among the competitors were a few unique characters. Jacob Brodsky and Renee Houle wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes, along with their bib No. 3.

Tim Hickey and Kim Justesen drove up from Long Island, N.Y., to compete. Hickey said he learned about the competition through the Travel Channel.

“I saw it on the television and I said I could do that,” Hickey said.

Darcy Morse, director of communications at Sunday River, said the event was probably the best North American Wife Carrying Championship Sunday River has had.

“The weather was perfect and the couples who signed up for this year’s event were incredibly athletic and entertaining to watch,” Morse said “It was also a bonus to have the 2010 and 2009 champs return and give it another go.”