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OPPD linemen have strong showing at Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo

July 24, 2023 | Jason Kuiper | OPPD employees, T&D
Nebraska Lineworker Rodeo

OPPD line technicians who competed in this year’s Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo showed the power of teamwork and displayed the pride they take in their craft.

This year’s rodeo took place July 21 at the Custer County Fairgrounds in Broken Bow. Four utilities competed for the first time in this year’s rodeo, joining the 10 other utilities that typically compete, making this year’s event the largest Nebrasksa Lineworkers Rodeo ever. A total of 66 lineworkers from across the state competed.

Nebraska Lineworker Rodeo TD_Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo_2023 Brent Foxhoven and Ted Gyrha Fist Place Overall Journeyman Team c
Ted Gyrha, left, and Brent Foxhoven took first place overall among the journeyman teams.

OPPD teams did well, with the team of Ted Gyrha and Brent Foxhoven taking first place overall among the journeyman teams.

The pair also finished first in the journeyman cutout change-out event, where a damaged cutout is replaced with a new cutout. Fused cutouts are devices that contain an insulator that stops electricity from flowing when a fuse blows. This is a common activity done in storm restoration situations.

Gyrha and Foxhoven also finished first in the journeyman hurtman rescue, which involves rescuing a mannequin attached to the top of a pole.

“That (hurtman rescue) is the most important job a lineman can have and the one thing you never want to have to use,” said Tim Potts, manager at OPPD’s Transmission & Distribution Center in Omaha.

Nebraska Lineworker Rodeo TD_Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo_2023 Apprentices
Dan Foreman, in white above left, and Gil Zarazua, in white above right, both finished in the top 10 overall in the apprentice division. Mike Mullendore from LES posed with both apprentices.

OPPD apprentices also had good showings at the rodeo. Gil Zarazua and Dan Foreman finished in the top 10 overall in the apprentice division.

In all, 12 OPPD employees competed and two served as judges.

Mutual aid challenge

At the end of the regular competition, a special mutual aid competition was held in which each competitor was teamed up with a person from another company in a competition.

TD_Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo_2023 Brent Foxhoven (OPPD) Takoda Batenhorst (NPPD) 1st place mutual aid
OPPD’s Brent Foxhoven, left, NPPD’s Takota Batenhorst took first place in the mutual aid cross-arm install event.

OPPD’s Foxhoven paired with Takota Batenhorst of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) to take first place in the mutual aid cross-arm install event. The pair each won a new impact drill from Milwaukee Tool, one of 18 event sponsors.

“This event is a gathering of lineworkers from all Nebraska utilities to showcase their craft,” Potts said.

For many competitors, the rodeo was a chance to see and catch up with former classmates they went through line school with, Potts said. They also had the chance to talk with some of their instructors from Metropolitan Community College and Northeast Community College, both of which sent instructors to help judge the event.

Growing and learning

Brian Kramer, OPPD’s senior director of Utility Operations  Construction and Maintenance, said it’s important for utilities to get together and compete in these rodeos.

TD_Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo_2023 hurtman
The hurtman event involves rescuing a mannequin attached to the top of a pole.

“At first I didn’t understand why these meant so much to people,” Kramer said of the rodeos. “But it is a healthy competition to demonstrate what these people do in their careers. It’s a chance for them to step up and showcase their skills, their craft.

“And more than competing, they are growing and learning. They’re seeing how prepping and practicing is important in their jobs, especially for the apprentices.”

The Nebraska Lineworkers Rodeo is also a good chance to meet people from the different utilities around the state, Kramer said. He pointed out that three of those utilities – NPPD, Lincoln Electric System and Loup Power District – recently provided mutual aid to OPPD after a strong storm system cause about 35,000 customers to lose power on July 12.

“I’m proud of how our competitors represented OPPD and their craft,” Kramer said. “And it was great for all the utilities there to show the strength of our Nebraska public power utilities.”

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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