By Author(s): Michael DeGrandpre 
Published Sunday, January 1, 2012
| From the January 2012  Issue of FireRescue 
The 2011 U.S. Nationals and World Challenge finals of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge were up for grabs this year, as all the top contenders were neck-in-neck until the very end.
The National Event
Indian River State College hosted the 2011 U.S. Nationals in Fort Pierce, Fla., where Run Faster Omaha (Neb.) took home the Lion Trophy for first-place team. Three of their five team members placed in the top five, with Jerry Kleidosty in second place and John Woolery in third; however it was the husband and wife combo of MacKenzie Briggs from Dragonfire Team MOS (Fla.) and Whitney Briggs from Team Mutual Aid (Fla.), who placed first in the male and female open categories with times of 1:29.88 and 3:10.48, respectively. Dragonfire Team MOS placed second overall as a team, followed by Team U.S. Air Force Academy (Colo.) in third, and Montgomery Fire/Rescue Blue (Ala.) in fourth.
Jerry Kleidosty also proved that being “older” doesn’t make you slower, placing first in the Over-40 category (final time 1:32.72), with teammate John Healy coming in right behind him. Al Ertzner, also of Run Faster Omaha, took first in the individuals for the Over-50 category, with a 1:43.64 final time.
Clayton County (Ga.) had Lawrence Adams and Brad Bailey taking first in the male tandems, posting a 1:23.90, and Team Beach Body (William Gates and Tyler Moran, U.S. Air Force Academy) taking second.
In the co-ed division, Irena Elstrom (Fla.) and David Bowman (N.C.), running as “the Beast of the East,” were the first-place finishers with a 1:37.18 final time.
World-record holders Stacy Billapando and Jessica Condon held strong in the women’s tandem with a 2:38.11 final time—more than six seconds ahead of the second- place female tandem team, Swamp Sugar, composed of Laura Villiers (Fla.) and Cheri Ardoin (La).
The male relay competition was intense this year, as there were several strong teams in the running. In the end, Team U.S. Air Force Academy Relay beat Team McKinney Powered By State Farm (Texas) and won the national title with a time of 1:11.08. Team Clayton County Over-40 trumped the Air Force Academy 40+ relay team to win the Over-40 category with a 1:22.90 final time.
For the females, it came down to the Fire Fembots from the U.S. Air Force Academy, who’ve been undefeated in their entire run with the Challenge. They beat the Boca Raton Female Relay with a time of 1:54.94.
The Over-50 B’s Team (N.C.) took the highest place on the podium with an impressive time of 1:32.31 for the Over-50 relay category.
World Challenge Results
Two weeks later in Myrtle Beach, the 20th World Challenge commenced with more than 600 firefighters from around the world competing for the “King of The Jungle” title. This year that moniker was bestowed upon Jeff Leonard from the Hayward (Calif.) Fire Department, whose team earned the second-place award overall. Leonard won by almost two seconds over the next time, with a fast 1:26.61. Graham MacKenzie, from Kamloops Fire Rescue Team New Gold (Canada) came in second at 1:28.13, and Trevor Fera, who was last year’s men’s winner, placed third with 1:28.40. MacKenzie’s team, Kamloops, placed first as an overall team this year, bringing the trophy back to Canada after Palm Beach County’s reign for the last year. Run Faster Omaha, who won the U.S. Nationals, placed third as a team overall.
Other individual winners:
- Over-40 category: First place: Darren Hillman (Canada), 1:34.61; second: David Bowman; third: Jerry Kleidosty (Neb.).
- Over-45: Lonnie Lewis (Va.), 1:39.19.
- Over-50: Al Ertzner (Neb.), 1:47.99
- Over-55: Cyril Fraser (Canada), 2:00.24
- Chief’s division: Byron McDonald (Ky.), 1:47.02.
Amber Bowman (Canada) earned the “Queen of The Jungle” title, coming in first in 2:31.26, followed by Amber Henderson (Wyo.), who crossed the finish line in 2:39.97.
In the tandem category, Darren Hillman and Jamie McGarva (Canada) took the first-place medals for the men in 1:14.57, while Amber Bowman and Jacqueline Rasenberg (Canada) earned the title of female champions with a posted final time of 1:55.12. They beat the current world-record holders for the female tandem, Jessica Condon and Stacy Billapando, who placed second in 2:01.66.
Other tandem award winners:
- Over-40: Parker Construction/Mission Safety tandem partners Bob Murray and Darren Hillman
- Over-50: Duane Cheek and Ricky Brown (N.C.)
- Over-60: First place went to Brian Jones and Jacques Breton (Canada), 1:59.95; second place went to Chuck LeBlanc and Bill Pietrantonio, 2:00.67.
Finally, in the relay finals, which were hotly contested, Team Clayton Over-40 took the crown for the Over-40 category, finishing in 1:21.13. The undefeated Fire Fembots walked away with the women’s crown with a final relay time of 1:45.01. The pinnacle award of fastest relay team went to Team Clayton County, who won last year as well. They completed the course in an unbelievable 1:08.00.
Season 21 kicks off in March 2012. Check the Challenge website (www.firefighterchallenge.com)  for next year’s schedule, which should be posted soon!
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