The weather outside may have been frightful, but in late October and early November, the competition got heated at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge National and World Challenges.
From Oct. 22 to Oct. 25, more than 200 firefighters from across the country converged on Kissimmee, Fla., to compete for national glory. True to his legacy, Brandon Cunningham (Fort Gordon, Ga.) placed first in the open male category with a time of 1:26.08, 2 seconds ahead of Florida native Mackenzie Briggs of Palm Beach County. Briggs was also part of the Palm Beach County Team, which had a final time of 4:37.90, earning them first place and the coveted Lion Trophy. They won by just 3/100 of a second ahead of Team USAFA (U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Jessica Packard (Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas) dominated as the national female champion with a time of 2:28.24, almost 30 seconds ahead of the second-place female time. And Lonnie Lewis (Midlothian, Va.) set the new world record in the 45-plus category, tearing up the course with a time of 1:33.83.
Team ADS Security, a co-ed tandem team featuring Brandon Cunningham and Heidi Charest (Beaufort, S.C.), not only placed first in the tandem co-ed division, but also set a new world record, whizzing across the finish line at 1:26.81. Whiteman Tandem 1, featuring Cory McGee and Tim Vanden Haak of Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., placed first in the male tandem division with a time of 1:14.98, while female tandem record-holders Stacey Billapando and Jessica Morehouse (Team USAFA) placed first with a time of 2:01.51.
In the relays, Team Clayton County (Ga.) was dominant over Team USAFA in the national relay showdown. Clayton County’s final time, with one 2-second penalty, was 1:12.61, while Team USAFA racked up 10 seconds in penalties for a final time of 1:23.80. The Fire Fembots, also from Team USAFA, placed first in the female relays (1:44.69), beating the Delray-Boca Ladies (Fla.), who dragged Rescue Randy over the finish line in 1:53.97. Team USAFA 40+ Relay placed first with a time of 1:19.33 in the 40-plus men’s division.
Fifteen days later—and 519 miles away—the wildcards for World Challenge XIX kicked off in Myrtle Beach, S.C. After 4 days of wildcard action, the finals were held Nov. 12 and 13.
In a total surprise race, Canadian Trevor Fera (Sudbury, Ontario), whom we hadn’t seen since Pittsburgh where he had a fourth-place finish, completed the course in 1:24.93, making him the new male Firefighter Combat Challenge champion.
Like she did at Nationals, Jessica Packard reigned as the female Firefighter Combat Challenge winner, finishing in 2:31.69, more than 5 seconds ahead of the second-place female finisher, Jacqueline Rasenberg (Ontario), who was last year’s world champ.
As for the team results, less than 1 second allowed Palm Beach County (Fla.) to add the first-place team trophy to their display case with a combined time of 4:30.63, beating RIVALUS-Halifax Fire (4:31.61).
In the tandem category, Brandon Cunningham found himself on the award podium again, but this time for his male tandem performance with Shane Farmer (Cedar Falls, Iowa), crossing the finish line at 1:13.93. Meanwhile, Stacey Billapondo and Jessica Morehouse’s female tandem Old Dog New Trick placed first with a time of 1:57.18. Billapondo also hustled with Anthony McMurtry (Team USAFA) to claim the co-ed tandem top prize with a time of 1:32.34.
Plus, Team Clayton County not only took the top prize for first-place relay team, but they also set a world record during the relay semifinals, burning a hole in the carpet with a time of 1:07.74. The Clayton County 40+ Relay Team also didn’t fare so poorly when they set a new world record in the semifinals, only to break that in the finals, setting the new 40-plus relay time record of 1:18.33.
As they did at Nationals, the Fire Fembots prevailed over the Ontario Flame Tamers (Canada), coming in first (1:45.31).
The competition level during the Nationals and World Challenge was electric, but even more prevalent was the camaraderie among firefighters as we came to say goodbye to the 19th season of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. We look forward to season 20, which will kick off March 24–26 at FDIC in Indianapolis.