H.B. police represent in Baker to Vegas

For 29 years Huntington Beach police have gained a lot of satisfaction from running 120 miles through the middle of nowhere.

Police agencies from around the world participate annually in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, which this year took place April 13.

The footrace begins in the town best known for the world's tallest, but now-defunct, thermometer and ends in Las Vegas. This time participants ran in near triple-digit weather, surrounded by the desert with rugged hills in the distance while running as high as 5,500 feet above sea level.

"Most of the [course] is a two-lane road with one traffic lane in each direction with dirt shoulders," said Sgt. Dave Dereszynski, captain of the Surf City team.

According to race director and Huntington Beach Councilman Jim Katapodis, temperatures along the race course have been known to climb as high as 105 degrees. Dereszynski said temperatures reached about 96 degrees, but cooled as the sun went down.

"The heat is certainly a challenge because of the dry area," Dereszynski said. "You're constantly taking in fluids. You're not feeling the sweat come off your body, so you really have to keep up with the fluid intake to stay hydrated."

A support vehicle paced behind the runners, providing them with water to get them going and first aid should it be needed, Katapodis said.

After 17 hours and one minute through the desert, the Surf City team reached their destination at Las Vegas Hotel, placing eighth in the 300 division.

"Our main goal is to go out there and have fun and showcase our physical skills against the other departments," Dereszynski said. "There's always room for improvement, but having fun is the most important goal."

Team co-captain officer Phil Scott, however, was a little disappointed with their results. In 2012, Huntington Beach finished the race in 16 hours and 49 seconds, according to the race website.

"We've finished a lot faster many times," he said. "I've been with the team for nine years and this is our slowest time. We've won our division twice and this is the lowest that we've placed."

Scott said he's already looking ahead to next year's race, trying to recruit new and younger officers to participate.

"We're trying to promote camaraderie, team spirit and things of that nature to get more enthusiasm," he said.

Scott said he nearly didn't make the cut when he first tried out for the team. But after his first race nine years ago, he and other officers on the force have become hooked on the bonding that occurs between colleagues.

"Once you become a part of it, you never really give it up," he said. "It's the camaraderie of being part of the team that makes you want to never give up. You don't want to let the team down and that's the best part of this whole thing."

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