Monday, December 4, 2023
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OUC Wins Big in Lineman Competition

Seven was the lucky number for OUC’s team of line technicians as it made a strong showing in the 2023 Florida Municipal Electric Association’s Lineman Competition in Orlando earlier this month. Six teammates, two journeyman competitors and four apprentices, snagged seven trophies overall, including first, second and third places in the mixed-competitor Mutual Aid event.

OUC Lineman Competition winnersThe impressive trophy haul is one of OUC’s best performances since the annual event began in 2001, and it marked an auspicious start to OUC’s centennial celebration.

“Preparation and a lot of practice paid off, especially for our apprentices. I’m really proud of how well we did in the Mutual Aid event, winning the top three trophies,” said team foreman Richard Boley, Lead Line Tech. “This was our best showing in a long time.”

Hosted by OUC, the Lineman Competition brought together teams from 12 FMEA-member utilities for a day of friendly but intense competition while temperatures crept into the low 90s. In all, 21, three-member journeyman teams and 77 individual apprentices – 140 lineworkers in all – put their skills, quickness and awareness of safety to the test while lugging about 20 pounds of gear as they climbed 40-foot utility poles to complete their tasks.

With stopwatches in hand, judges scrutinized competitors’ every move, with points deducted for “gigs” (faults), in four journeyman team and four individual apprentice events, plus the mixed-competitor Mutual Aid event. Apprentices, line techs with four years or less of experience, also took a written test. The results of their efforts were revealed later at an awards banquet held at the Marriott Orlando Airport Lakeside near the competition field.

Competing as journeymen, Zac Rochester and Austin Nettles, both Line Tech IIs, claimed first- and second-place trophies, respectively, in the Mutual Aid event, while Eli Venn, Line Tech III, scored a third-place trophy as the apprentice member on his team. Each was paired with two line techs from other utilities in a contest meant to simulate power restoration work they would face while helping mutual aid partners recover from a devastating incident like a hurricane. The top three teams also won a complete set of hand tools from Mutual Aid event sponsor Milwaukee Tools.

Like Venn, fellow apprentices Garrett Accomando, Line Tech III, and Chase Englert, Line Tech II, scored trophies as first-time Competition contestants. Accomando placed first in the H-Frame Crossover while Englert took the top prize in the written test. The H-Frame Crossover is an exercise of speed and agility, with a competitor ascending a utility pole, crossing a 10-foot beam to the other utility pole while secured to an overhead guy wire, then descending to the ground. Accomando’s time of 1:11:10 was nearly eight seconds faster than his closest competitor, and he received no deductions.

Meanwhile, fellow apprentice Evan Englert (no relation to Chase), Line Tech II, came in second on the written test and took first in the Hurtman Rescue, a simulated exercise of safely lowering an injured lineman (in this case a mannequin) from a utility pole.

The Lineman Competition took place on a field with 101 utility poles set up to emulate what line techs see every day in their service territories. Some were outfitted with transformers, others with crossarms, and all were connected by non-energized wire. Crews from several competing utilities, including OUC, helped prepare the field under the supervision of Boley and James Alexander, Sr. Technical Trainer and four-time Master Judge of the FMEA event. Alexander and Boley also were responsible for entire run of the show, including the setup of a big top-style tent, vendor booths, electric vehicles, solar panel display, Tiny Green Home, food trucks, opening ceremonies stage and children’s activities area.

Clint Bullock, General Manager & CEO of OUC, thanked Boley, James and Chris Taylor, who as Manager of Construction & Maintenance took on the role of project director of site setup, as well as “teams of employees and volunteers” for making the event a great experience for competitors and spectators alike.

OUC’s trophy-winning line techs will travel to Kansas City to compete in the American Public Power Association’s Lineworkers Rodeo, also known as the Nationals, on April 1st.

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