Story by Ike Dodson, PIO, OPEC
The only thing crazier than a day trekking across California’s desolate wasteland in 100-degree temperatures is also doing it all through the night in the bitter cold.
For two days, and without interruption, a collection of 30 agents and administrators representing CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) will traverse 120 miles of the Challenge Cup Relay, tackling 20 stages of “blood, sweat, pride and honor” along infamous Highway 160, from Baker, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
The race, populated only by law enforcement personnel, is scheduled to run in 11 flights, starting hourly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 25. The action culminates inside the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas on March 26, with a special awards ceremony eight hours after the last team finishes. Over 6,000 runners and support personnel are expected to join family, friends and nearly 1,000 race volunteers with around 150 law enforcement dignitaries.
DAPO’s Baker 2 Vegas Team #150 runners and volunteers have trained for a year, both physically and mentally, to prepare for each leg of the relay in eight hour shifts — some of them occurring in the middle of the night in temperatures that drop below 30 degrees. The day shifts in intense heat are no picnic either.
As a runner is making his/her way up the steep hills and down the precipitous canyons of the 120-mile course, team volunteers are required to follow their runner in a team van. They monitor their runner’s physical condition under the changing temperatures. Each van must have three volunteers including a vehicle operator, a passenger to provide water and first aid, and an alternate runner.
Below is a special look at DAPO’s Baker 2 Vegas Team #150 and the agents who have come together to make this monumental effort achievable as a division.
Angela Kent – Assistant Regional Administrator (A)
Northern Region Parole HQ
“I compete in various running events, like the Spartan Beast and Tough Mudder relays, RAGNAR relays, Baker to Vegas, Police and Fire Games, half marathons, 10K/5K competitions, and a triathalon. Trail running is my favorite. I run for the sheer love of it. I only started competing because my husband started paying attention to the running times of the race winners. When he realized my times were winning times, he pushed me to compete. Challenging yourself to achieve greatness uplifts the spirit and channels positive energy. My inspiration to run comes from being told ‘I won’t run.’ I was almost killed in an accident in high school. The doctors said that I would never walk again. I started running again at the end of high school and have not stopped. I seek to encourage others to push themselves to achieve things that they don’t believe they can. Running promotes confidence, calm, and strength. I believe that each one of us possesses the commitment to remain strong and unite as a team, thus building camaraderie within our Division and with our partner agencies.”
Jose I. Rojas – Retired Parole Agent 1
Los Angeles Central
“I’m a long-time runner who got back into running competitively. Back when I was young, I enjoyed running cross country in high school and in college. Due to my employment at CDCR, I picked up cycling and I ran only when I was able to. However, I ran enough to compete in Baker to Vegas (1999 to 2008, 2015 and 2016). Now, for self-satisfaction, I enjoy running 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I finish in the top three for my age group. I go through periods where I absolutely love running. I just have the desire to bust out of my house and run down the street. When I feel this way I can’t get enough. Running clears my mind and energizes my life.”
Richard Audet – Parole Agent I
Mid City District
“I like what the event represents ― teamwork, camaraderie, division pride and honor to all fallen officers.”
Dean Onyanga – Parole Agent I
East Bay Court Compliance Unit, Contra Costa County
“I ran track (sprints) during my school days and discovered I had a knack for distance running while in the US Air Force. I completed the LA Marathon (twice), CIM (Sacramento Marathon) and Oakland Marathon, however I’m proudest (to date) of completing Ironman Lake Tahoe in 2015.That race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, followed by 26.2 miles of running at elevation. Running is the perfect stress reliever. The runner’s high is real. What inspires me to run is chasing endorphins. This can be accomplished either on a solo run or at a race setting, knowing every participant, regardless of age or ability are in it for their overall health and well-being.”
Jerry Cardenas – Retired Parole Agent I
“I completed the LA Marathon in 2015, competed in the Western States Police & Fire Games and run track & field in the 400m, 200m, and 100m for the past eight years. Competition and a desire to stay healthy inspire me to run.”
Mark Herschberg – PAII Supervisor
Ventura 1 GPS Unit
“I began running in 1992 and have completed three marathons; numerous half marathons, 5K and 10K races and have competed in 11 prior Baker to Vegas races. This will be my 12th year competing. Running keeps me physically and mentally fit.”
Lupe Sanchez – Parole Agent II CPAT
“I am lifelong recreational runner. My inspiration to run is to promote fitness, morale and camaraderie among our division.”
Jason Colarusso – PAII Supervisor (A)
“I ran the Tough Mudder twice, the Spartan Sprint, Spartan Super, Spartan Beast, RAGNAR relay with Kent, and Baker to Vegas 2016. I began running to train for my first Tough Mudder in 2014 and I have been only running for three years. My inspiration was initially the teamwork required to complete these types of events, but now my inspiration is my father who passed away this past June. Running is also my outlet to reduce stress.”
Maurico Lopez – PAIII/Unit Supervisor
San Fernando Valley2
“My running background includes participating in numerous mud runs, triathlons and recently traditional 5K races. I have participated in five previous Baker 2 Vegas teams. I enjoy running to challenge myself and the time I get to have with my wife (avid runner). I am trying to instill in my son a healthy lifestyle and to challenge him physically. I also have a newborn that I have to constantly keep up with.”
Luke Ray – PAI/CPSRM
San Fernando Valley2
“I ran the Baker to Vegas twice. I’m awesome. The wolves of the world inspire me to run.”
Tina Rivero – PAI
“I’ve been running for the past eight years, including marathons in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Berlin, Germany. I have also ran three triathlons, over 80 half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. The ‘runners high’ inspires me. I love the competitiveness of the sport and the camaraderie. I run to de-stress!”
Nghia Tran – Parole Agent II Specialist/Training Coordinator
“I started running about two years ago. I run to stay fit and as a stress reliever.”
Ron Warner – Parole Agent III (A)
Southern Region Adult Programs Unit (MCRP / CCTRP)
“I have run three painful half marathons. The endorphin rush after a good run keeps me coming back for more. I’m a junkie.”
Jose Vizcarra – Parole Agent I
Escondido Inland GPS Unit, San Diego County
“I enjoy running because it keeps my mind clear and for the health benefits as I am getting older. In our profession we need to have an outlet to burn off stress and this has been my outlet. It has also motivated my youngest daughter Cameron to run since she was 10 years old.”
KaSandra Johnson – Parole Agent 1
Victorville (not pictured)
“I’m volunteering because I’ve been a nurse for 21 years and I’ve always had a passion for helping people and I enjoy the unity of my fellow coworkers. Last year was my first year volunteering and I made a commitment to return and help wherever I’m needed.”
*Parole Agents Jon Ok, Oscar Guerra and Eduardo Ayala will also compete for Baker 2 Vegas Team #150.