The 26th annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition kicked off today at 6 a.m. when 49 teams took off for a nearly five-mile buddy run at Camp Darby.

This is a change from previous years, which started with an Army physical fitness test and then the Malvesti obstacle course at Camp Rogers.

SFC Troy Reed, who competed in Best Ranger in 2000, said the 4.8-mile run was over rugged, unimproved surfaces with a chest-high creek and a swamp to navigate. The competitors wore the Army combat uniform and typical body armor with plates that weigh between 30 to 35 pounds.

It's important to finish the buddy run well because that determines the order of movement for the teams, Reed said.

"Finish in the top ten and you're set up for success the rest of the day," Reed said.

Team 8, SSGs Brandon Farmer and Luke McDowell with the 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., were the first team to cross the finish line, in just under 48 minutes.

The second team across the finish line was MSGs Walt Zajkowski and Daniel Jenkins, Team 22, with U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C. Both Zajkowski and Jenkins are previous winners of the competition.

In third place is Team 46, 1SG Robert Carter and CPT Sam Linn with 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.

Only 48 teams finished the buddy run, which ended near the next event, the Darby Queen obstacle course, which is a mile long with 26 obstacles.

With names like easy balancer and island hopper, the obstacles are anything but, said CSM Matt Walker, U.S. Army Infantry School command sergeant major.

The spot jump was canceled this year because of fog. Other day one events include a machine gun range, stress shoot and orienteering. The final event of the day is the foot march, which determines what teams continue to the Day Stakes events of day two.