Story and photos by Chris Stone
You might think winning a gold medal in a Toughest Competitor Alive competition would make you want to puff out your chest a little.
But one winner, Daniel Altruz of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said of his daylong athletic effort: “I was lucky today. Everybody trains hard.”
That sentiment was typical at the U.S. Police & Fire Championships this week in San Diego. Yes, it was about competition, but it was equally about camaraderie and support in a band of brothers (and sisters).As entrants racked up pull-ups, they heard shouts of “I know that you have a few more in you,” “Do one more for your mother” and “One more, one more!”
Despite his modesty, Altruz dropped a few jaws when he completed 38 pull-ups.
On the final day of the multisport championships, a decathlon-style event decided “the toughest competitors alive” at Mt. Carmel High School.
But even a decathlon is limited to five events a day. This one had eight over an eight-hour period.
Starting at 7 a.m. and ending about 3 p.m., 26 entrants did a 5K run, shot put, 100-meter dash, 100-meter swim, 20-foot rope climb, bench press, pull-ups and an obstacle course. (See rules here.)
“Being an example for my growing kids is the most rewarding,” said Detective Natalie Plascencio, a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. “Love it, love to challenge myself, and I’m turning 42 this year.”Plascencio competed in two events as part of a four-member team. She did the swim and shot put despite knee and back injuries.
Said Tony Encinas of the Vernon Police Department: “You’ve got to be in pretty good shape to do all of this events. It keeps me in good health and gives me a goal.”
The rope climb is often considered the toughest challenge in the competition. Participants weren’t able to use their feet as they climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel’s gym.
But depending on a person’s conditioning and past experiences, some events were a little daunting.
Veronica Saucedo of LAPD said she nearly drowned during her team years and used the swim part of the competition to “overcome my swim issue.” She admitted to having “jitters” in the pool, but completed her 100-meter swim.
Medal winners Sunday in the various age groups (and weight categories) were:
Women 35+: Sarah Morrow, Jacksonville, Alabama Police Department
Women 30+: Veronica Salcedo, LAPD
Women 18+: Kristina Tudor, LAPD
Men 18+: Bradley Kamau, El Cajon Fire Department, gold; Matthew Castro, silver
Men 30+: Daniel Reyes, Nassau County Police Department
Men 30+ over 200 lbs.: Stephen Johnson, LAPD
Men 35+: Adam Loo, LAPD
Men 40+: Daniel Altruz, Los Angeles County Fire Department, gold; Zack Zamudio, Madera County Sheriff’s Department, silver; and Lewis Litwiler, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department, bronze
Men 18+ over 200 lbs.: Louis Kinoshita, El Cajon Fire Department
Men 40+ over 200 lbs.: Douglas Tracy, Nevada Department of Public Safety, silver; Brian Kearns, West Covina Police Department, silver; and Anthony Encinas, Vernon Police Department, gold
Men 45+: Timothy Kearns, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, gold and Jason Herr, San Jose Police Department, silver
Men 50+: Andrew Castro, LAPD
Teams: Jake Cutting, El Cajon Police Department SWAT, and Kris Ulibarri, Santa Ana CHP, gold; and Matt Castro and Andrew Castro, silver
Mixed doubles: David Martinez, Buena Park Police Department and Melissa Tewell, gold; and Kristina Tudor, LAPD, and Adam Loo, LAPD, silver
Next up, in July, are the World Police & Fire Championships in Fairfax, Virginia.
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