Competition 2017: The Bicycling Bishops?

by Mike Harris, PCI #1125, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Seattle
Former IPMBA Board Member

by Ron Burkitt, PCI #488, Hilliard (OH) Police Department
Former IPMBA Board Member

The City of Delaware, Ohio, was the location of the 27th Annual IPMBA Conference, specifically, Ohio Wesleyan University, home to the Battling Bishops.  The annual obstacle course competition took place on the Jaywalk, a pedestrian plaza adjacent to the  Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, the hub of campus and conference activities.  It is well-endowed with stairs, ramps, and other features that seem to inspire creativity in obstacle course competition designers.

The bike parade, led by members of the red-shirted Command Staff, departed Hamilton-Williams and wended its way through downtown Delaware, past the businesses which had been so welcoming throughout the week.  Upon returning to the Jaywalk, the riders assembled for the customary group photo.  The excitement for the competition had been building all afternoon as the course took shape under the scrutiny of course designers Jeff Brown, Dayton (OH) Police Department, and Ron Burkitt, Hilliard (OH) Police.  Those who attended the 2006 IPMBA Conference in Dayton may still have nightmares about the complex cone courses that weaved their way around the Wright Brothers statues, designed by Brown, Burkitt, and Jim Bowell, Troy (OH) Fire Department (now retired).  

The creative spark struck Jeff when he spied construction cone bases lying within the week’s worth of equipment in the back of a U-haul.  Although they did not yet know it, within a few hours, riders would be navigating an improvised washboard within a cone lane no wider than a few inches of the pedals.  The excitement continued to build during the course walkthrough and safety briefing, as the designers traced the correct path through the maze. 

Riders leaving the gate first confronted a tight ramp featuring a switchback that barely accommodated 26-inch rims, let alone 29ers.  They descended the ramp and immediately proceeded down a set of stairs leading into the aforementioned cone lane.  Prior to the washboard lurked a small ramp situated on a curve which masked an unseen obstacle called “centrifugal force”.  This ramp had the busiest spotters by far. 

After the washboard came a small stair ascent and turn, the precursors to the obstacle that would be the nemesis of many and the source of much colorful language:  a platform upon which perched a solitary cone just waiting to be cut with the front tire, while the rear tire stayed on the ground.  This was followed by twelve pallets forming a raised, L-shaped pad, which the rider had to ascend, turn and descend before moving onto  a long, thin bridge, and more tight turns. 

After circumnavigating a sculpture, riders could earn back time by scooping up one of two half-tennis balls perched on top of cones and bringing it to the finish line.  They finished with a sprint up a straight, wide, ADA-compliant ramp.  This ramp rocketed competitors close to the most famous part of the course:  the announcer, Allan Howard, PCI #001.  Finally, a breath-taking, dynamic stair descent to the finish line.  Whew. 

All in all, the course was designed with many things in mind:  fun, speed, skill, minimal damage to both the Jaywalk and competitors, and finish times under two minutes.  Mission accomplished.

Every year the obstacle course is a fun but competitive event between individual and teams, and this year was no different.  Clinching first place with a time of 1:15 flat was first-time conference attendee Joseph Spragins of the Fort Worth Police Department.  His bio claims it was his “first time riding a bike”, but there is a Cat 2 racer in Fort Worth who goes by the same name.  Coincidence?  Trailing by just a few seconds with a time of 1:19.22 was Scott Bixby of University of Buffalo Police, star of IPMBA’s Fundamental Skills for Public Safety Cycling DVD.  Though they did not know it at the time, the top two comprised one-half of first place team Nothing in Common, along with Craig Martinez of NYPD (fifth overall, 1:25.01) and Gerome Pruitt, DFW Airport Police.  Get it? 

Rounding out the top three with a time of 1:23.11 was “Special Ed” Bartelme of Washington University Saint Louis Police.  A covert Cubs fan, Ed was a member of second place team Tornado Alley.  Team members Ryan Skaggs (Indiana University Police) gets paid to ride a bike and play with a dog; Matt Karnowski (Saint Louis Metro Police) thinks “bikes are fun”; and Larry Collins (Joliet Police) is “distant cousin  to “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues. 

The third place team hailed from one of only four official commonwealths in the United States – the Hershey Kisses.   Finishing with a “sweet” time of 6:34.50 were Dave Dager, University of Pennsylvania Police; Robert Jones, Easton Police; Blake Kuntz, Bethlehem Police; and Manuel Rivera, also Bethlehem Police.  Can you name the other three commonwealths in the U.S.? 

Amongst the women, Lisa Taube of Asheville Police Department claimed first place overall as well as in the 30+ age category with a time of 1:46.93.  Lisa was the mastermind behind the 2016 IPMBA Competition in Asheville, so she knows her way around a cone course.  Just a few seconds behind was Deanna Flaugher of Five Rivers MetroParks Police, collecting her second medal in as many years.  Rounding out the top three and representing women under 30, Marqui Kilson of Denton Police brought home her first. 

In the Open Category, guest instructor Derrick Maready of Bike Cycles in Wilmington, North Carolina, put up the winning time of 1:18.32, which was also the second best time.  Volcanic Bicycles founder, owner, and lead bike-builder, Eric Kackley, finished second with 1:30.10 (eighth overall), followed by long-time supporter Mark Eumurian of Patrol Bike Systems, with a time of 2:27.00.  

In a class of his own, 68-year old Rance Okada, retired from Westminster Police in Colorado, finished with a time 1.56.62 and a rank of 36th. 

After the last competitor crossed the finish line, everyone pitched in and dismantled the competition course, leaving no trace behind.  The University catering staff swooped in to serve the bar-b-que fare they’d been shuttling to their stations, dodging riders along the way. 

Joining outgoing IPMBA President Bernie Hogancamp on stage for the Awards Ceremony were past IPMBA presidents Allan Howard (who also served as the competition announcer), Kirby Beck, and Jim Bowell, as well as former Education Director Al Simpson

IPMBA recognized Instructor-Trainers Tom Woods, David Hildebrand, and Clarence White, all of whom recently announced their “retirement” from teaching Instructor Courses.  As they step down from this important role, we congratulated those who have attained this rank within the past year:  Matthew Karnowski (Saint Louis Metro Police), Michael Pitman (Carmel IN Police), Mo Ibrahim (Metropolitan Police DC), Matthew Worm (Omaha Police), Tom Madera (Eastern Connecticut State University Police), and Dave Dager (University of Pennsylvania Police).  Instructor-Trainers are vital to the organization as through their volunteerism, each succeeding generation of instructors is certified. 

Finally came the moment of anticipation for everyone who had taken a chance on winning a firearm or a bike.

The lucky winner of the Sig Sauer P320  full-size 9mm was Alex Sullivan of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Protective Services, while Tim Broughton of the Highlands (NC) Police Department is the happy owner of the Smith & Wesson MP Shield 9mm.  The gun raffle was made possible by the Blackwing Shooting Center.  In the meantime, Erik Green of NYPD rode away with a brand-new Safariland-Kona Patrol Bike, donated by Safariland.

The final and most important recognition of the evening went to the Command Staff, who received a resounding, well-deserved round of applause – an inadequate but heartfelt sign of gratitude for the effort they expended ensuring the success of the conference. 

Congratulations to all the riders who participated in the competition this year.  We look forward to the 28th Annual IPMBA Conference in Saint Louis, Missouri, June 4-9, 2018.

Competition Results

Individual Competition

Female under 30
Marquilla Kilson, Denton (TX) Police:  2:06.22

Female 30+
Lisa Taube, Asheville (NC) Police:  1:46.93
Deanna Flaugher, Five Rivers MetroParks (OH) Police:  1:49.31

Male Under 30
Nathan Becker, College Station (TX) Police:  1:26.28
John McAbee, South Carolina Department of Public Safety:  1:37.31

Male 30-39
Joseph Spragins, Fort Worth (TX) Police:  1:15.00
**** First Overall ****
Craig Martinez, NYPD:  1:25.01

Male 40-49
Scott Bixby, University of Buffalo (NY) Police:  1:19.22
**** Third Overall ****
Ed Bartelme, Washington University (MO) Police:  1:23.11

Male 50+
Dave Dager, University of Pennsylvania Police:  1:32.02
Jeff Taylor, Cypress Creek (TX) EMS:  1.47.55

Team Competition

Nothing in Common:  6:15.80
Joseph Spragins, Fort Worth (TX) Police:  1:15.00
Scott Bixby, University of Buffalo (NY) Police:  1:19.22
Craig Martinez, NYPD:  1:25.01
Gerome Pruitt, DFW (TX) Airport Police:  2:16.60

Tornado Alley:  6:38.60
Ed Bartelme, Washington University (MO) Police:  1:23.11
Matt Karnowski, Saint Louis Metro (MO) Police:  1:28.80
Larry Collins, Joliet (IL) Police:  1:38.30
Ryan Skaggs, Indiana University Police:  2:08.40

Hershey Kisses:  6:34.50
Dave Dager, University of Pennsylvania Police:  1:32.02
Robert Jones, Easton (PA) Police:  1:32.90
Blake Kuntz, Bethlehem (PA) Police:  1:40.30
Manuel Rivera, Bethlehem (PA) Police:  1:49.20

Open Category

Derrick Maready, Bike Cycles, Wilmington NC:  1:18.16
**** Second Overall ****
Eric Kackley, Volcanic Bicycles, North Bonneville WA:  1:30.10
Mark Eumurian, Patrol Bike Systems, Saint Paul MN:  2:27.00

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