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Team LAAFB Takes on Relay Challenge

Team LAAFB, including all 36 relay runners and supporters, pose for a group photo before the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Team LAAFB, including all 36 relay runners and supporters, pose for a group photo before the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Josie Fonseca, captain of team LAAFB, runs the team's first leg of the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Josie Fonseca, captain of team LAAFB, runs the team's first leg of the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Justin Brodrick (third from left), member of team LAAFB, finishes his leg as Josie Fonseca (second from left) is ready to "catch" him while race officials look on during the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Justin Brodrick (third from left), member of team LAAFB, finishes his leg as Josie Fonseca (second from left) is ready to "catch" him while race officials look on during the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay Race April 17 and 18, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. -- It was high noon in the Nevada desert. The relentless heat simmered on the highway surface. The Mercury kept rising inexorably under the bright, cloudless sky. Quiet solitude was palpable, for nothing seemed willing to stir in the 98-degree heat. Even the breeze slowed to die.

But a column of runners slowly appeared down the road, growing bigger and bigger. This was the familiar sight of more than 10,000 law enforcement personnel from all over the world taking turns running in the 26th Annual "Baker to Vegas" Challenge Cup Relay race, held April 17 and 18.

"As the largest law enforcement relay race of its kind, the event embodies teamwork, camaraderie, physical fitness and competition," said Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department.

This year's relay was more relevant and exciting to Los Angeles Air Force Base personnel because for the first time a team from the base took up the challenging 120-mile run. The 20-member team included eight females and 12 males from the 61st Security Forces Squadron and Office of Special Investigations Detachment 810.

The team placed 234th overall from 251 teams. They placed 29th in the invitational category of 31 teams.

"Our goal this first time out was to get the feel of the race and to finish the relay without any penalties," said Josie Fonseca, team captain. "We wanted to be competitive against teams that had been running this race 10, 15 or 20 years, almost as long as the history of the race itself. Next year, we'll be ready to compete."

Team members were a combination of active-duty military and government civilian personnel from both OSI and 61 SFS: From OSI - Josie Fonseca, Jose Zaragoza, Courtney Stockton, Sarah Reeves, Rebecca Glacalone, Eric Moore, Dave Gilmer, Elizabeth Richard, Martin Kolega, Chris Wittwer and Tiffany Kyoda; and from 61 SFS - Justin Brodrick, Sal Lopez, Alea Nadeem, Tommy Mull, Juan Felix, Christopher Stenke, Chris Neiman, Steve Haymes and Yvette Perez.

"I am very proud of our team," said Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander, who was present at the race to support the team members. "They came together nicely and were competitive against a lot more experienced teams even though this was a grueling race. Being able to complete the race and actually beat out 17 teams on their first outing speaks volumes of their teamwork mentality, persistent training and amazing athletic ability."

The team effort was a testament not just about working together as a team but also about the camaraderie among members of the law enforcement personnel at LAAFB, said Ms. Fonseca. Through hours and hours of training and building the team, "we became one," she said.

Each member of the team ran his or her own leg of the relay in full. Although there were alternate runners standing by, they were not needed. Other teams switched runner slots or had their alternates complete the relay.

"Finishing their own leg showed that each and every member of our team was determined to gut it out," said Col. Latin. "That 'no-quit' attitude is the character of this team."

The race success was made possible by more than a thousand volunteers, according to Jim Katapodis, race committee co-chair. Among them were base supporters who came out to cheer the team on or served as "catchers," those who "caught" the runners as they finished their part of the leg, explained Ms. Fonseca.

"As an avid fitness enthusiast myself, I know what it meant to the team members to hear the cheers and encouragement, especially when exhaustion set in," said Col. Latin. "Our exceptional supporters were there from the beginning to the end of the race. They helped our team finish this race."