CONWAY — An Horry County team is heading to the AT&T Cotton Bowl Jan. 3, but theyre bring a different kind of gear than some might expect for the college football battle.
The athletic prowess of Team Horry a group of elite firefighters from Horry County Fire and Rescue who have been recognized as some of the most fit firefighters in the world captured the attention of organizers of the bowl games pre-game festivities. The team has competed with other teams worldwide in what is called the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, which is an annual fitness competition for firefighters simulating real-life challenges, according to its website.
A five-man relay team comprised of Michael Medeiros, David Howell, Aaron Windsor, Kenneth Norton, Michael Mabe and alternate Ryan Smith is the top relay group in the nation following the annual competition, and were invited to show their talents to a nationally television crowd.
This is beyond what I can say is amazing, Medeiros said. Its hard to get folks to do this sports because it takes so much time out of your life and schedule.
The challenge seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession's rigors to the public, according to its website.
Wearing full bunker gear and the Scott 5.5 Air-Pak breathing apparatus, pairs of competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks including climbing the 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound victim as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock, the site states.
Team Horry has been competing in the Scott Firefighter Challenge since 2002, and in a similar capacity statewide since 1998, Medeiros said.
He said the team is heading to the Cotton Bowl pre-show to make people who follow the challenge forget about its loss to the Canadian firefighting crew that took first in the world, and to prove that it is, indeed, the best in the world.
Were training pretty much everyday so that we can actually not only redeem ourselves from not winning the World Championships and taking second, but win it in such a fashion that theyll sit back and say, Oh wow, not only are they the fastest for 2013, but theyre the fastest team. We cant beat them, Medeiros said.
The challenge at the Cotton Bowl will feature the top 16 relay teams, top 18 individual males, top eight females, top 10 males over 40 and top four males over 50. The challenge will be televised, in part, live before the Cotton Bowl and shown sporadically throughout the game, which starts at 8 p.m.
Before the Missouri Tigers take on their old Big 12 conference foe, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Team Horry will be part of a 250-person crew of firefighters and military members who will unfold a field-sized American flag during the National Anthem.
Medeiros said the team always accepts donations, especially for rare trips like this, but also enjoys the perks of being among the top firefighter-athletes around the world.
We have to always go out every year and solicit sponsors, he said. Being the top in the world and definitely the nation, it helps.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.