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Carlsbad Combat Challenge Team Concludes Tremendous Year

Carlsbad Fire Combat Challenge Team Press Release

For the last two years, the members of the competitive Carlsbad Combat Challenge team have been bringing home medals and trophies from around the nation. The squad recently finished their second straight trip to the world competition, where they reached the Sweet 16.

The Carlsbad Fire Department Combat Challenge competitive team consists of Jay Carter, Geronimo Ontiveros, Todd Vannatter, Brad Carlsen and John Riddle. Casey Collins served as an alternate.

“This challenge, and training to be an effective firefighter, go hand in hand,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. “Our community has a dedicated team of competitors that has been showing the world that they are among the best. Carlsbad is fortunate to have such talented professionals, and they are true heroes to this community.”

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is a demanding five-event physical challenge that includes a stair climb with a high-rise pack, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance, and a victim rescue. This year's world competition took place Nov. 3- Nov. 9 at the International Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz.

The first few days of the competition are about getting the best time possible, which determine seeding during the Nov. 9 single elimination competition. Dozens of teams from around the globe, including New Zealand, Russia, Canada and Poland, turned out for the world final, but only the top 32 made it to the bracket. Carlsbad went into bracket competition with the 11th overall seed.

Each member of the team has a specific role or roles in the competition. For example, Carter starts things off with the run up the stairs while Vannater fires the hose later in the competition. There's no set rule of who has to do what, but competitors do pass a baton during the race.

Competing in the tournament on Nov. 9, Carlsbad firefighters won their first round of single elimination competition against a team from the United States Air Force Academy. They were up against a team from Whiteman Air Force Base just a few minutes later. It was a close race, but Whiteman, who went on to finish second in the world, prevailed.

“We had a couple fumbles and we lost it,” Ontiveros said. “Honestly, we could have beat them.”

Fire chief Rick Lopez stressed that the trip to the world competition was not a one-time event.

“A lot of work went into all of this,” he added. “This is very positive for the city and the department. They've been working hard for two years on this and put together a tremendous list of accomplishments.”

Carlsbad was the only team from New Mexico to reach the world finals this year. This year's list of accomplishments for the squad included finishing 3rd at the Cotton Bowl, 1st in team and relay at Daytona, 1st in relay at the FDIC in Indiana, 2nd in relay in Ontario, 1st in relay and team in Carlsbad, 1st in relay at Arlington and 2nd at the nationals in Tyler, Texas.

The Carlsbad Fire Department actually has three total teams who train and compete, along with a number of individual and tandem squads. Carlsbad has competed in the firefighter challenges for several years, but Lopez said it took a group of firefighters willing to stick together and train to become globally competitive.

“Our best time two years ago (for a relay team) was 1:40,” he noted. “Now, our best time is 1:11. It took two years to shave off 30 seconds. That shows how much work went into this.”

“It was a matter of being sick of losing,” noted Ontiveros. “We didn't want to be mediocre. We wanted to go to world finals and seek a world championship. That's our goal.”

The world event included an opening ceremony featuring the flags of the different nations participating. However, there were quite a few familiar faces from previous competitions, as the elite level of competition tends to draw a familiar crowd.

“It's the same course and the same people working the course,” Carlsen observed. “For the most part, it's a lot of the same competitors, just a different setting.”

This year, Carlsbad also won the Grand National Champion award for receiving the most regional team wins. Team scores are tabulated using a combination of top times in the individual competition. Carlsbad has set almost every firefighter combat challenge record in the state.

Participation would not be possible without support and sponsorship, and Carlsbad's competitive team has received support through Chris Davis Big Rig Tools, Alliance, Carlsbad Medical Center, the IAFF Local #1687 chapter, along with everyone who purchased T-shirts. Additional sponsorship is needed and appreciated.

For more information on the Carlsbad Fire Combat Challenge Team, visit https://www.facebook.com/CarlsbadFireCombatChallengeTeam.

For more information on the Firefighter Combat Challenge, visit http://www.firefighterchallenge.com/

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