The 2016 National Gas Rodeo was held August 27 at the Jefferson County fairgrounds, just outside of Denver, Colorado. The competition was fierce, with 55 teams from all across the country vying for the title. Representing IBEW 1245 and PG&E in the two-person team division were Shaun Mahanay and Jayson Visinoni, who competed as the “GC Regulators,” and Zach Shepherd and Tom Peterson, competing as the “Manteca Elite” team. In the four-person team division, our teams were the “Natural Born Tappers,” made up of Sam Barraza, Emanuel Ene, Miguel Loza and Adam Kotko, and the “Lakeville Cowboys,” which consisted of Dustin Brown, James Dunne, Clay Maisak, Casey Smith and alternate Tim McKenna. These competitors all earned their spots by placing in the top during the IBEW/PG&E Gas Rodeo that took place earlier this year.
Our local Rodeo gave our members the chance to practice and prepare for the National event, and all four teams arrived ready to compete. As the Rodeo kicked off, all of the teams gathered around the center stage. A rousing rendition of the National Anthem was performed, followed by a “stretch and flex” to help loosen some very tense competitors just before the Rodeo events began.
Each team was randomly slotted to do a rotation of three events: 1) meter set build, 2) six-inch pipe cut and 3) service install. Each event is timed, and the cumulative times (plus any penalties) were tracked and displayed on the scoreboard. If a team was unable to complete the event due to a broken wheel on the cutters or any other sort of equipment failure, the team is given the maximum time of the slowest team, plus 30 seconds. In a competition like this, getting the max time penalty is nearly impossible to overcome.
After the first three events were completed, everyone headed over to the final event, which is the hand dig. Each team had to dig up a buried box, 3 feet by 5 feet, that was filled with a mixture of pea gravel and sand. The two-person team box was 18 inches deep, and the four-person team box was 36 inches deep. Just like any other sporting event, we all sat in the bleachers and cheered on our teams as they raced to pull up the box. Hearing kids yelling “Go Dad!” is something I will always remember. But perhaps the most memorable moment was when a female team, competing right along with the guys, won their heat, and the crowd went wild.
Once the times were all tallied, we were disappointed to learn that our teams fell just short of making the top ten, and the competition ended for us. We will return next year with a lot more knowledge of how to compete, and hopefully we’ll return with a trophy in hand.
–Lou Mennel, IBEW 1245 Business Rep
Photos by John Storey