By Geghard ARAKELIAN
It won’t be criminals that sheriffs deputies and police officers will be chasing this weekend, but each other. The annual Baker to Vegas Relay Race takes place this weekend, an annual event for over 20 years.
“It’s been a law enforcement tradition for 25 years,” said Sgt. John Gilkerson of the Glendale Police Department and a Support Crew Captain for the event. “It’s a time for camaraderie and a chance to compete.”
Since the 26th Baker to Vegas Relay, also known as the Challenge Cup, is not a city subsidized event, its participants must train on their own time and use their holiday hours in order to run.
“It’s a team effort outside of the police agency,” said Gilkerson.
The event is not just a competition among police from Southern California. Over 200 law enforcement officials from around the world will be gathering in Baker to take part in the relay race. According to its website, the Challenge Cup/Baker to Vegas Relay was the vision of Los Angeles Police Officers Chuck Foote and Larry Moore. It was spawned following the format laid by the LAPD Metro Division’s “Death Valley Relay” which came to an abrupt end in 1985 after a seven year stint of running through the Devil’s graveyard.
“It’s a very large undertaking for our department to go out and it’s completely a volunteer thing,” said Sgt. Tim Feeley of the GPD who will be the captain of his running team.
Despite teams coming out from the U.K., Australia and Germany there is no grand prize to be won. Rather, every team competing will be participating for bragging rights.
“You receive a mug if you finish in the top half,” said Sgt. Ray Harley of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Department. “It’s a fun, competitive event that brings virtually every type of law enforcement agency together.”
“The winners don’t bring home any purse. Number one gets to say they’re number one,” confirmed Gilkerson.
Rivalry can be central to the race since a police agency may win or lose to another law enforcement organization by a matter of minutes or even seconds.
“Huntington Beach is our closest rival,” said Feeley. “The DEA’s team, they were first place the last couple of years so they’re the team we’re gunning for.”
The competition can add to the thrill of the race.
“And because it’s a race, you have that competitive fire going and the adrenaline rush so you can be pretty drained when your leg is over,” said Harley.
Yet despite the friendly competition and the urge to win bragging rights, the relaxy is ultimately “the brotherhood of law enforcement getting together,” said Harley.
“It’s really to go out and to do your personal best and to pit yourself against these other agencies in a very friendly, elaborate rivalry,” said Gilkerson.
And in gathering for the race, participants are joined by family, friends, retired officers and spouses who help organize the relay and usually make up the support crews that follow each runner in a vehicle.
“It’s not just the runners. It’s the volunteers and the support people. It’s really a sight to behold – all these people out on the road…it’s quite an experience,” said Harley.
It is up to each team to raise its own money to participate in the event in the months and days leading to the event.
The GPD will be holding a fundraising barbeque today, Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the police station at 131 N. Isabel Street in Glendale. It is open to the public.
For more information on the race or to view results visit www.bakervegas.com.