Military community participates in annual JBER Eco Challenge

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. N. Alicia Goldberger
  • 176 Wing
Individual and team competitors from the Air Force and Army, both guardsmen and active-duty members, and dependents took part in the JBER fitness centers' fifth annual four-part, multi-sport competition, July 20.

The Eco Challenge's four events took place in the following order: running, biking, kayaking and hiking, with each event starting and ending in the Hillberg ski area.

Each participant had to complete one segment before beginning the next. First running four-and-a-half-mile miles, then biking nine miles, kayaking a half mile and finishing with a four-mile hike with either a 25- or 35-pound pack. Competitors said the course was challenging.

"I don't think there was a single event that didn't push me at some point," said Gayle Hoffmeister, wife of Army Lt. Col. Hoffmeister, 2nd Engineer Brigade. "It's always nice to know what you're made of." Hoffmeister was the fastest individual female finishing at 2:11.50. She received the first-place prize for individual female. Prizes were given for first and second place winners in the individual female, individual male and team categories.

The fastest individual male, and overall fastest time, went to air guardsman Staff Sgt. Jamie Haines, a material management specialist with the 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron. After completing the run and bike events in record time, Haines started and completed the kayak event before any of the other participants arrived at the lake. He accomplished the 18-mile course with a finishing time of 1:57.

As the individual racers were finishing their final events, the team challenge began the completion around 11 a.m. The teams repeated the same sequence of events, splitting the events. As soon as one member completed an event, the next member took off.

'Team Misfits,' an Army team consisting of Spc. Carson Baxter, Sgt. Isaac Sims, and Spc. Kenneth Straight with the 501st Infantry Regiment, finished in first place with a time of 2:18.

For a few of the teams, like team 'PB&J' who took second place, the competition was a family affair. PB&J consisted of Senior Airman Joel Graff, a cryptological linguist with the 381st Intelligence Squadron, who teamed-up with his wife, Amra Graff, sister, Brianna Graff and father, Gary Graff. Graff chose the team event to enjoy Alaska with his family during their visit here. He appreciated being a part of a team.

"I think it's more relaxing," Graff said. "You have other people you can look to for support."

Despite a flat tire and some overturned kayaks, racers were seen smiling, giving high-fives and cheering each other on. The course was designed to foster good-spirited competition in a different atmosphere than the gym, according to the 2012 Eco Challenge coordinator, Linda Neeley, the aquatics and fitness manager at the Elmendorf Fitness Center.

"I find it to be a really interesting event you don't typically see," Neely said. "Changing it up is always a great thing. We live in such a beautiful state; they get so much scenery on these trails."

The competition is open to anyone with base access. It is put on by the Elmendorf Fitness Center and supported by the Fort Richardson Buckner Fitness Center.