31 teams remain in Best Ranger as end draws near
April 17, 2011
- Day 3 events: Darby Queen Obstacle Course, Helocast, Water Confidence Test and final buddy run
- More than 60 miles traveled by competitors before start of day 3
- USASOC team leads field going into final events
Teams picked up the pace overnight leading into the final day of the David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition.
Injuries eliminated three teams and narrowed the field to 31 following a 12-mile road march and night orienteering course.
Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Santiago and Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe, of the Ranger Training Brigade, are in the top spot to claim the Richard A. Leandri Award. The award is given to the best night orienteering team and is only awarded to teams who complete the entire competition.
The competition's other award, the Capt. Russell B. Rippetoe Trophy, could go to 3rd Infantry Regiment's Capt. Hunter Southerland and Sgt. Sean McAlpine if they reach the finish line this afternoon. The trophy is awarded to the top team in the road marching event.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command's Sgt. Maj. Walter Zajkowski and Master Sgt. Eric Turk, returning champs and favorites to win, remain in close competition with 75th Ranger Regiment's Staff Sgt. Charles Cogle and Spc. Chris Broussard and RTB's Santiago and Riepe.
The contestants traveled more than 60 miles by foot leading up to this morning's Darby Queen Obstacle Course, said RTB's event officer in charge Capt. Joshua Ollek, more mileage at this point than in previous years.
With exhaustion weighing heavy on the teams, families turned out to offer words of encouragement along the course at Camp Darby.
Terri Merriken, mother of Team 19's Staff Sgt. Kanaan Merriken, flew from Albequerque, N.M., to watch her son compete.
"He was hit by a roadside bomb in 2003, spent two years on one hundred percent disability. Then re-trained and returned to duty" and now he's competing against some of the most physically fit Soldiers in the Army, said Terri, whose been at nearly every event to catch sight of her son.
"I'm really proud of him ... I'm glad to see he still has that competitive spirit," she said.
Merriken and his partner, Staff Sgt. Matthew Zosel, were in 21st place going into today's events.
With team eliminations historically slowing down on the last day, the final standings will be determined by the mental and physical endurance of the remaining competitors.
This afternoon, the teams head into the helocast event and water confidence course. The final event will be the buddy run, which begins at Lawson Army Airfield and will take teams the final three miles to the finish line at Freedom Hall.