By Paul Doherty
LIVERMORE— Skill, speed and attention to detail with a focus on safety were the emphasis at the 2017 West Coast Lineman’s Rodeo as some of the most talented apprentices and journeyman line workers competed for a chance to represent PG&E at the 2017 International Lineman’s Rodeo this fall.
Line workers from PG&E and IBEW Local 1245 showed their talents in multiple events that simulate the work they do every day, including a dead end bell change, a broken insulator replacement, hurt man rescue and a cross arm change out.
Also competing were teams from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Rocky Mountain Power, Southern California Edison and Modesto Irrigation District.
By day’s end, a well-known journeyman lineman team from Grass Valley comprised of Anthony Albright, J.P. Richard and Adam Beene captured first place with a perfect score among competing journeyman crews.
Looking for another title
The trio was crowned world champions at the International Lineman’s Rodeo in 2014 and they took fifth place overall (among 229 teams) at the 2015 international rodeo. They did not participate in either the West Coast or international rodeo in 2016, but after their big win in Livermore on Saturday, they’re looking to reclaim their international title.
“(The younger competitors) have been tearing it up lately, so we didn’t really know how we were going to do after a year off, but we knocked the rust off,” Beene said after the award ceremony. “It feels good to be back up here (on stage) and heading back to Kansas City.”
PG&E’s Pat Hogan, senior vice president of Electric Operations, praised the competitors.
“Since I joined PG&E I’ve been at the rodeo every year. I absolutely love it. It’s really about these folks being able to showcase their talents for their co-workers, friends, and family and for us to showcase how wonderful our linemen are here at PG&E,” he said. “And I love the varied competition events because they each represent something different – whether it’s skill or speed — and every single event has safety as its core component, which is PG&E’s No. 1 priority.”
One of the younger competitors at this year’s rodeo was Shelby Wiedenbeck, a 22-year-old pre-apprentice based in Marysville who is also the first woman ever to compete at the West Coast Lineman’s Rodeo.
Wiedenbeck, who joined PG&E in May after graduating from Northwest Lineman College, took home multiple awards among pre-apprentices.
“I feel honored. I’m more proud of being the first female competitor.”
She can’t advance to the international event until she becomes an apprentice. That means she could be eligible at next year’s competition in Livermore. She said she can’t wait.
“I’m definitely going to be back next year,” Wiedenbeck affirmed.
Two years in a row for Stockton apprentice
Dustin Curry, an apprentice based in Stockton, followed up on his first place performance among apprentices at last year’s West Coast rodeo with yet another first place performance in 2017.
“It’s amazing, especially to do it two years in a row,” Curry said. “I have to give a big thanks to all the guys in Stockton who supported me and pushed me through this.”
This year’s West Coast rodeo followed record-setting winter storms and came amid an intense wildfire season, giving participants an opportunity to show off their skills to a grateful public in a fun, family-oriented environment.
Jeff Capuchino, a former member of the United States Army who is now an apprentice based in Merced, came to compete in the rodeo fresh off of working PG&E’s response to the disastrous Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County.
“We just rolled off the fire, so I’ve been climbing a lot of poles. I’m in the best shape I could be in,” he said when asked about his preparedness for the event.
Capuchino had the honor climbing a 100 foot pole to raise the American flag during the opening ceremony — an experience he shared with his wife and three daughters.
“It’s the first time my wife’s seen me climb, so to go up a 100 footer was pretty cool,” he said.
Top winners of the 2017 West Coast Lineman’s Rodeo were:
- Top Overall Journeyman: Anthony Albright, J.P. Richard and Adam Beene (Grass Valley)
- Top Overall Apprentice: Dustin Curry (Stockton)
- Top Overall Pre-Apprentice: Tyler Block (Fresno)
- Fastest Overall Pole Climb (Apprentice and Journeyman): Journeyman Nick Smith (Bakersfield)
Below are the linemen advancing to represent PG&E at the 2017 International Lineman’s Rodeo:
- Dustin Curry (Stockton)
- Bryan Ketch (Fresno GC)
- Gino Brancato (Fresno GC)
- Gary Hoch (Merced GC)
- Mike Binn (Fresno GC)
- Brandon Branch (Chico)
- Kyle Baker (Bakersfield GC)
- Trent Kaher (Templeton GC)
- Colton Baker (Fresno GC)
- Anthony Albright, Adam Beene, J.P. Richard (Grass Valley)
- Jordan Chene, Tony Humbert, Nick Smith (Kern)
- Luke Bogart, Heath Hatch, Jacob Hunt (Fresno Restoration)
- Steve Bentley, Mike Medeiros, Shanon Spah (Fresno Restoration)
David Kligman and Matt Nauman also contributed to this story. Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.