By Chris and Ken Stone with photos by Chris Stone
Updated at 7:30 p.m. May 30, 2015U.S. Police and Fire Championships.
In the biathlon, running and gunning are required.
“It’s a good way to network and you see studly athletes,” said Patty Monge of the Central Marin Police Authority in Northern California. “You see some phenomenal athletes, and you want to say, ‘Why are you a cop or fireman? You could be a professional.’”
Among the fastest were Jose Pedroza and LAPD’s Bryan Daneworth in the 40-plus age group, with times of 21 minutes, 35 seconds and 21:48, respectively.
Modeled after the Winter Olympic biathlon (cross-country skiing and rifle shooting), the event contested Saturday morning at the San Diego Police Department shooting range on Federal Boulevard involved running 3 miles and pistol-shooting at human-likeness targets.
Officer Monge said the games are “fun, like a reunion every year. … There’s a great, small community of officers.”The biathlon is but one of dozens of sports offered through June 6, including golf, baseball, basketball, track, archery, cycling, swimming, surfing and even ice hockey. Some 5,000 people were expected to compete, and the public is invited to the free event.
Some will go on to the World Police & Fire Games in late June in Fairfax, Virginia, and surrounding areas.
Monge, who will be inducted into the championships’ Hall of Fame on Wednesday, has competed for 24 years in events including shooting, running, basketball, beach volleyball and Toughest Competitor Alive.
What makes the biathlon difficult, Monge said, is steadying yourself before shooting.
“You may have to do your stress breathing, combat breathing at the range, breathe, relax, pull the trigger and hope you get it in the silhouette.”
After the second run, “I couldn’t see,” she said. “My glasses were totally fogged up. It was terrible. But that’s the way it goes.”
She wiped her safety glasses and continued shooting.
Some competitors, including Monge, will run in Sunday’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, so must pace themselves both days.During the scoring, entrants have their total score reduced for shots outside the midsection area of the silhouette.
Jake Cutting, an El Cajon police SWAT officer, said physical fitness and improving the shooting of some colleagues are “lost components in law enforcement.”
“When you see an event come out that incorporates both of those (fitness and sharpshooting) in a positive atmosphere and it’s safe, it’s a win-win for everyone,” Cutting said.
Cutting and his partner, Santa Ana CHP Officer Kris Ulibarri, won gold medals in the Saturday morning competition.
The biathlon was both “humbling and rewarding to see how you stack up among some of the other guys from other agencies,” he said.“If you are shooting at a target that is standing still and you are still, you like to think that you’re going to hit it 9 out of 10 times.
“Put in the element of fatigue in there, either mental or physical, and things definitely change.”
Charles Locke, retired from the Sheriff’s Department in San Joaquin and Butte counties, said the best part of the competition is seeing old friends again.
But it also motivates him to stay in shape. Whenever he thinks about taking it easy, he thinks about rivals training, and he gets moving, he said.
“Before the race, we shake hands and are friends,” Locke said, “but when the race starts, we are competitors, but at the end, we are back to being friends again.”
The 62-year-old Locke, who ran the half-marathon in 1:14 in the 1980s, is hoping to get a time of 1:25 on Sunday.
Monge encourages the public to come out this week and watch the athletes from throughout the country.
“They will see us in a different way,” she said, “and they will get a kick out of seeing some of the competitions.”
“Fitness is very important in our profession and I would like to see more people compete.”At the SDPD range, men’s and momen’s individual events were offered in six age categories. Two-person teams also competed, some in mixed-sex pairs.
Using National Rifle Association rules, contestants run a mile, shoot 12 rounds standing, run another mile, shoot another 12 rounds and finish with a third mile.
The guns are .38-caliber or larger and are meant to be “totally stock police-duty firearms such as would be issued to a police recruit in the academy,” rules say. “No external modifications are permitted.”
County Supervisor Dave Roberts, under fire in an office scandal, is the honorary chairman of the San Diego event.
“Two years ago, the organizing body of the games — the California Police Athletic Federation — moved the event to San Diego with a goal of making the city its permanent home,” Roberts said in the event program. “As Honorary Chairman, I am determined to make that goal a reality.”
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