Jake and Kirsten Barney from Lexington, Virginia, won Saturday's North American Wife Carrying Championships at Sunday River. Credit: Courtesy of Sunday River

NEWRY, Maine — It was a messy slog but a Virginia couple reaped the rewards of cash — and beer — in the North American Wife Carrying Championship.

Jake and Kirsten Barney, from Lexington, Virginia, finished first Saturday on an alpine course made all the more difficult because Jake was carrying his wife on his back when he trudged through water and jumped over logs.

The couple placed second last year.

The second-place finishers were Team Storey, Giana and Elliot Storey of Westbrook. The Storeys were last year’s North American champions and they went on to win fourth place in the world championships in Finland, where wife carrying originated.

The event is based on the Finland legend of “Ronkainen the Robber,” whose gang pillaged villages and took the women.

These days, men usually carry women, but they don’t have to be married and the couple can choose who carries whom.

The Barneys won five times Kirsten Barney’s weight in cash — or $630 — and 12 cases of beer.

The Lewiston Sun Journal contributed to this report.