Rick Sargent's hopes were dashed, temporarily, on Aug. 15 when he mistakenly thought that was the day officials would notify the winner of the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run design contest.

The day came and went. No call.

"I figured better luck next year," said Sargent, a certified medical illustrator and owner of Sargent Illustration & Design. He's also an adjunct graphic design instructor at the Art Institute of Charleston and an avid runner.

Three days later, he got the call, stood up suddenly knocking over a painting, and told the caller, "You're kidding!" His wife was in the room and asked what was up. An artist, too, she shrieked with excitement.

Sargent had won the design contest.

Needless to say, the couple was excited because -- besides the $1,000 award and the publicity the design generates for the artist -- the contest is becoming increasingly competitive because of the Art Institute's presence in Charleston, according to Michael Desrosiers, an assistant race director who has coordinated the design contest for 18 years.

"We're probably looking at the Art Institute (students) taking on the design contest on for class projects," Desrosiers said, adding that the contest had 80 submissions this year -- about 20 more than usual.

Desrosiers said judges had a difficult time deciding on the winner among 15 true contenders and said that some were gravitating toward "fun and cartoon-y" designs and others to more artistic designs, like Sargent's. Desrosiers liked Sargent's design because it incorporated Charleston's history into a modern design.

Indeed, Sargent said it was his wife's suggestion to add some Philip Simmons ironwork to the design as a tribute to the famed Charleston artisan who died last year.

"The design evolved from several ideas," said Sargent, who is 37 and lives in Mount Pleasant. "I knew what color scheme I wanted to start with and, because I've run it (the Bridge Run), I wanted the bold presence of the Charleston skyline that strikes you as you near the top of the bridge."

The result, Sargent said, was the juxtaposition of Charleston's history and classic, natural beauty with the modern bridge's expression of its bright future.

Unlike many of the artists who have won the contest in recent years, Sargent is an avid runner -- finishing four marathons in the past five years -- and has run and will run the Bridge Run. Sargent added, "I got into running five years ago because I need goals to stay in shape."