Lineworker competition brings out the best of the best
by Steven Johnson, Staff Writer
A two-year hiatus is not a problem, if you’re on top of your game.
That was one of the lessons of the 2022 Gaff-n-Go Lineworker Rodeo, which attracted a record number of competitors and crowds after the pandemic sidelined it in 2020 and 2021.
Case in point: A trio of co-op teams repeated their 2019 successes by winning the cooperative journeyman lineworker title, the equipment operator’s rodeo, and in the popular Gaff-n-Grill cookout.
“We got lucky this year and last time,” says Phillip Collison of Delaware Electric Cooperative, who pointed to teammates Dave Morgan and Mike Layton as reasons for their consecutive Jimmy Gardner Award, given to the top co-op team. “It’s those two guys and their brains.”
The DEC crew finished in the top three in five journeyman events and are likely headed to the International Lineman’s Rodeo in October, where it previously placed sixth.
They could square off there with a past international champion that also participated in the Gaff-n-Go, held May 13-14 in Doswell, Va., and coordinated by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
Jacob Lybbert, Ramon Garcia and Will Robinson ventured east from Diamond Bar, Calif., to represent the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 47. World titlists in 2019, they captured the Gaff-n-Go hurt man rescue event, and Garcia says the travel was worth it.
“This is our first rodeo of the year. We’re so pleased to be able to work on our skills as a team. This is a great event,” he says.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative scored a first in the TEREX Equipment Operators Rodeo, as Alister Pollard, Thomas Bailey and Addison Spicer bested the field, just as they did in 2019.
Topping 14 other teams to maintain the Gaff-n-Grill championship was Blowin’ Smoke, the REC unit of Steve Mason, David Annalora and Doug Miller.
“You’re anxious until you hear the results,” a visibly relieved Mason says. “We were sweating it out.”
Intermittent precipitation did hamper the more than 160 lineworkers who competed events ranging from a primary insulator change-out to a written test, all with an emphasis on safety and skill.
“The team led by the association did an outstanding job of setting up the field and I couldn’t be prouder of all the volunteer judges who ensured a safe and timely event,” says Clint Card of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, a judge and event organizer.
The all-event journeyman title went to Chad Domonic, Jared Seeloff and Wendell Young of Dominion Energy.
Adam Wainwright of Dominion edged Scott Geovannello of Southside Electric Cooperative by two points to finish first among apprentices.
After the pandemic-induced hiatus, though, the camaraderie was as important as the performances.
“Getting everyone out here seems like it’s a step on the way back to some degree of normalcy,” says Brian Mosier, VMD Association president and CEO. “The energy was awesome those two days and you could tell everyone was excited to be back.”