Good Sports: Fresno County Law Enforcement

FRESNO, Calif.

"They're out there protecting the community non-stop 24 hours per day, but then they come out and do something like this," said Armando Negrete, a Clovis Police Department Dispatcher.

"This" is training for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, a race that has tested law enforcement officers from all over the world for 29 years now, with the Fresno County team participating in the last 12.

"We've had to branch out," said Fresno County Law Enforcement Team Captain Vince Frascona. "Now we've got Clovis P.D., Madera County S.O., Kerman P.D., Reedley P.D., Parlier have runners involved, and I believe Kingsburg also this year helped us get a runner in."

There are 20 stages of the Baker to Vegas Relay covering 120 miles. Some stages are tougher than others, like Stage 3, a 4.2 mile jaunt straight up a seven percent grade.

"We go from 500 feet of elevation up to about 5300 feet of elevation, and then back down into Las Vegas Valley," explained Negrete. "So some of the legs are extremely hard. And then the heat and cold also."

"This isn't a joke," said a straight-faced Frascona. "This is 120 miles out in the desert that you've got to be on your toes and you've got to make sure you're hydrated."

And there is special meaning for the runners, who pay tribute to fallen officers in their own special way during the race.

"Each year on the baton we carry, for 120 miles," said Negrete, "On the baton is written all of the names of the officers that have fallen the previous year."

"Anytime that you lose somebody, especially with Joel Wahlenmeier – Joel was a big part of our team for a number of years and ran some of the toughest legs you can imagine," said Frascona. So when you put his badge number as your team number, it's a little bit of pride and sense of honoring his memory."

While the main goal of training year-round for the race is to improve personal fitness, the runners say the thrill of competition is never lost, both in training and on race day.

"For the most part they are type-A personality officers that are wanting to push," said Negrete. "And we have to sometimes hold these guys back. They're like horses and otherwise we're going to be hurt."

"These guys are crazy, I'll tell you that right now," said Frascona, only half-kidding. "Anybody that's going to run out in this desert at 110 degrees sometimes – that takes a lot of guts."

It's safe to say the Central Valley will be well represented in this year's race.

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