From high atop power poles with crowds watching below, OPPD’s line technicians set to work.
They replaced crossarms. Changed key equipment on each pole. Rescued a mannequin in a simulated injury accident.
OPPD’s team powered through a lot of familiar challenges at the International Lineman’s Rodeo, a competition in Bonner Springs, Kansas, that celebrates lineworking skills.
Hundreds of utilities from throughout the United States, Canada, Jamaica and Brazil participated in the event. The rodeo gives lineworkers a chance to network, see new industry tools and inspire younger generations to join the trade.
Line technicians worked through chilly temperatures, rain and overcast skies, the kinds of conditions they often encounter back home in Nebraska.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said OPPD Line Technician Aaron Prohaska, who helped prepare OPPD’s team. “Everyone wants to compete and show what they can do. We also had a lot of support from throughout the company.”
Prohaska said OPPD supported lineworkers in the competition, setting aside a few practice days beforehand and providing meals and a trailer to assist the team.
OPPD posted several strong performances. Gil Zarazua, an apprentice line technician, finished 4th in OPPD’s division and 19th overall out of 440 apprentices.
The International Lineman’s Rodeo has become increasingly competitive over the years as more utilities participate, and mere seconds or small deductions can make a big difference in the rankings.
For some events, lines stretched all the way around the rodeo grounds as participants waited for their turn.
“It was really cool to see how big it was,” said Zarazua. He placed well in the Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo earlier in the year. “Being in line work, I had heard about the rodeos and just thought it would be fun to compete.”
OPPD’s journeyman team – with Line Technicians Seth Marek and Brent Sass and Troubleshooter Brent Foxhoven – finished 9th in the Journeyman Municipal Division out of 43 teams.
Foxhoven said the rodeo’s focus on safety, speed and proper technique has helped him in his regular job as a troubleshooter, restoring power to customers. During a rodeo, attention to detail and mental planning can make all the difference.
“In your day-to-day work life, you start thinking about how you can do things more efficiently,” Foxhoven said. “When you roll up to a job, you have a little mental tailgate with yourself to figure out the best way to do it. The rodeos makes us better as a company.”
Foxhoven said rodeos also provide an opportunity for apprentices to show leadership skills and proficiency in their trade and learn from more seasoned lineworkers who enjoy climbing.
The rodeo featured solo apprentice events and team journeyman events. The apprentice challenges included a written test, pole climb, “hurt man” rescue with a life-sized dummy dangling from a pole and mystery events that weren’t revealed until shortly before the competition began.
Journeymen faced similar pole climbs, hurt man rescues and two mystery events. Mystery events are kept secret until just a few hours before the rodeo. The journeyman team drills require good teamwork, communication, precision and speed.
Competition at the International Lineman’s Rodeo is intense. Consider the hurt man rescue, a perennial, timed rodeo challenge. In this year’s journeyman competition, the difference between 1st place and 23rd was 30 seconds.
“Every second can set you back compared to the next guy,” Foxhoven said. “Just reaching for the wrong thing takes one or two seconds. It forces you to think ahead.”
OPPD’s apprentice lineup included Line Technicians Richard Terrian, Nick Wolf, Derek Moore, Andrew Walter, A.J. Walter, Rio Woodyard, Brady Knott, Andrew Hansen, Dan Foreman and Zarazua. Foxhoven, Marek and Sass represented journeymen in the competition.
OPPD workers who helped judge the competition were Line Technicians Tony Messer, Trey Mueller, Matt Hobbs, Chad Metschke and Construction Inspector Gary Martin, who served as a master judge. Tony Liston served as a chief judge. Prohaska helped prepare for events and assisted with logistics and planning. Transmission & Distribution Field Supervisor Ernie Ross helped in various roles as a representative for supervisors.
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