The 33rd annual Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, a 20-leg run from Baker, California to Las Vegas, Nevada, was held on March 25 and 26. Two-hundred seventy-four teams representing law enforcement agencies from around California and the world competed in the event, including teams from Germany, Belize, Canada and Australia. The Department was represented by a team of 20 lifeguards and rangers who were, in turn, given invaluable assistance by a 10-person support crew. State Parks finished in 6th place overall, completing the 120-mile course in 14 hours and 15 minutes. That time amounted to an average pace of just over 7-minutes per mile and was the fastest posted by a State Parks’ team at the event since 1999.
The volunteers – without whom this effort would not have been possible – included follow vehicle drivers Bob Burke (retired), Scott Bayne (Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division), Ron Kreuper (retired) and Terry Kiser (Santa Cruz). Alternate runners rode with the follow vehicle throughout the race, ready to jump into the fray in the event of injury. They were Dan Raducanu (Channel Coast), Aaron Wright (Northern Buttes), Kiser (who pulled double duty) and Dale Adama (retired). The team’s required race volunteer, Margaret Brown (SURCOM), worked at stage 4 of the event throughout the day on March 25 and seasonal lifeguard Michael Jekogian (Channel Coast) served as the team’s jack-of-all-trades.
Seven runners represented the Department for the first time including five from BVST 39 which graduated last June. Three of the new runners finished their stages in the top-10: Kevin Craig (Monterey), Ryan Rzab (Northern Buttes) and Mike Gleckler (Capital). Other top-10 finishes were posted by Darrell Readyhoff (Angeles), Micah Moore (Santa Cruz), Darby Fultz and John Anderson (both from San Diego Coast).
In addition to those mentioned above, this year’s runners included (arranged by District):
- Eric Palmer (Inland Empire)
- Dan Kraft (Monterey)
- Blair Pubols (North Coast Redwoods)
- Michael Cueto (Oceano)
- Taylor Riis (Oceano)
- Adam Borello (Ocotillo Wells)
- Pete Estes (Ocotillo Wells)
- Sean Briscoe (San Diego Coast)
- Tim Gunther (San Diego Coast)
- Jake Pflepsen (San Diego Coast)
- Daniel Gant (San Luis Obispo Coast)
- Bill Wolcott (Santa Cruz)
- Jack Futoran (Training Section)
State Parks plans to return to the event in 2018. Our goal will be to finish in under 14 hours which hasn’t been done by a Parks team since 1991.
Below is a timeline of events and photos from the event
Friday, March 24
8:30 p.m. Members of the team gather in the lobby of the Westgate Hotel (race headquarters) prior to the team dinner.
8:35 p.m. Ryan Rzab (N. Buttes), Tim Gunther (San Diego Coast) and Micah Moore (Santa Cruz) talk during the tram ride to dinner.
11:00 p.m. Departing from dinner at The Venetian.
Saturday, March 25
8:30 a.m. Team leaders (from left) Tim Gunther, Darrell Readyhoff (Angeles) and Jack Futoran (Training Section) go over race logistics prior to the all-hands team meeting.
9:30 a.m. As the all-hands meeting begins, a bumper crop of first-time runners (including five from BVST 39) gather.
Back row, from left: Pete Estes (Ocotillo Wells), Taylor Riis (Oceano Dunes) Mike Gleckler (Capital), and Ryan Rzab.
Front row, from left: Michael Cueto (Oceano Dunes), Blair Pubols (N. Coast Redwoods), and Kevin Craig (Monterey).
10 a.m. Ron Kreuper (retired) models his team shirt from the 1999 race.
11:15 a.m. Team California State Parks gathers for a photo in the parking lot of the Westgate Hotel.
11:20 a.m. Co-captain Dan Kraft (Monterey) offers final words of encouragement shortly before the first group departs for the starting line near Baker, CA.
3:15 p.m. Jake Pflepsen (San Diego Coast) signs in at Stage 1.
3:50 p.m. Ten minutes to the start: Baton, check. Team T-shirt, check. Due to logistics, not all 270-plus teams can start at the same time. The first group begins at 8:00 a.m. and teams begin the race every hour thereafter until the final group starts at 4:00 p.m.
3:50 p.m. Each team must have a designated follow vehicle which stays with its’ runner on the course. Here, team follow vehicles caravan to mile three to await runners from the final starting group.
Bob Burke (retired) is at the wheel of State Parks’ follow vehicle as it joins the caravan.
4:00 p.m. Jake Pflepsen waits amid the final group of runners as last minute instructions are given by the race starter and…
…at the stroke of 4 p.m., State Parks begins its’ race.
5:05 p.m. Micah Moore nears the end of Stage 2 with State Parks’ follow vehicle close behind. Thankfully, the temperature on the course this year peaked at about 80-degrees.
Pete Estes (far left) begins stage three having taken the baton from Moore who is met by team co-captain John Anderson (San Diego Coast). Each runner must be “caught” by a team member who accompanies them to…
…race medical personnel for evaluation prior to being released.
5:15 p.m. After clearing medical, Moore and other members of State Parks’ first group of runners hop-scotch ahead, passing Estes as he takes water from the support crew.
Photographer Michael Jekogian (seasonal, Channel Coast) captures Moore shouting encouragement to Estes as they pass…
…and Estes begins a long climb in the Mojave Desert.
6:15 p.m. Members of State Parks’ second group of runners and support crew keep an eye out for our runner at the finish of stage 4. From left: Aaron Wright (N.Buttes), Sean Briscoe (San Diego Coast), Mike Gleckler and Bill Wolcott (Santa Cruz).
A few minutes later, Adam Borello (Ocotillo Wells) comes into view.
7:00 p.m. Sean Briscoe runs stage 6 shortly after sunset. All runners are required to wear lighted, reflective vests after dark.
9:30 p.m. Darkness has settled as Mike Glecker tackles stage 9 and the race crosses the state line from California…
Sunday, March 26
2:55 a.m. The scene at the end of stage 15 as runners await their teammates atop Mountain Springs Pass where temperature dipped into the 30s.
Kevin Craig hydrates after completing stage 15.
4:45 a.m. Tim Gunther (left), Taylor Riis (center) and Jack Futoran wait at the stage 19 exchange point where Riis will take the baton from Ryan Rzab. \
5:05 a.m. Having handed the baton off to Riis, Rzab catches his breath.
6:15 a.m. Blair Pubols crosses the finish line…
…and is met by Rzab marking the end of the race for State Parks after 14 hours, 15 minutes and 39 seconds.
Shortly after the finish, Rzab models the team’s race bib which included a picture of Ranger Blake Bonham in whose memory the 2017 team competed.
6:30 a.m. State Parks’ team gathered for a post-race photo in front of the event’s peace officer memorial wall.
Secret handshake? Co-captain John Anderson (left) presents a challenge coin to Mike Gleckler to commemorate his first time representing State Parks at the Baker to Vegas event.