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18 law enforcement officers compete at Police and Fire Games

June 22, 2002|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Sports Editor

SANTA ANA — Once again, Imperial Valley athletes have shown they can excel on the state level as 18 law enforcement officers competed in the 2002 state Police and Fire Games here.

While the results for many of the local athletes are still out for the seven-day competition, which finished Saturday, four athletes have returned to the Valley with a cache of precious metal.

Juan Arvizu and Letty Sanchez, both of the Imperial County Probation Department, came away with both a gold and silvermedal in karate events while county Sheriff's Office deputies Pompeyo Tabarez Jr. and William "Rex" Jernigan medaled in their respective sports. Tabarez earned a bronze in wrestling and Jernigan a gold in arm wrestling and a bronze in the bench press.

Said 36-year-old Arvizu, a deputy probation officer: "I like (the Police and Fire Games) because it's something positive, like a fraternal kind of thing. After 9-11, it gives a positive light to the things we do on our job."


He added, "The fact is a small county like ours gets the chance to compete against the big boys like LAPD."

Competing in the 30-36-year-old division for karate, Arvizu won his gold in weapons, where he displayed his mastery over a scythe-like weapon known as the kama.

To increase the degree of difficulty, Arvizu's kamas were attached to about 6-inch lengths of rope.

With his weapons traveling at speeds between 80 and 90 mph, Arvizu won handily.

He also competed in the 30-36 division for katas, or karate forms, where he performed a routine in the "ufaf" style invented by Chuck Norris. There he earned his silver.

"I'm happy," Arvizu said of his performance. "I was disappointed about not winning the grand champion — the level of competition was fierce."

He said he appreciates the support of county probation for allowing him and his teammate, Sanchez, to compete. He's hoping to attend the World Police and Fire Games next year in Barcelona, Spain.

Sanchez, 29, and also a deputy probation officer also won her gold in weapons and her silver in forms, performing with the same weapons and in the same style as Arvizu, her training partner.

She said Arvizu taught her to use the kama only a month ago. However, she did not perform the routine with attached ropes.

"I felt good. In my weapons, I did really good. It was a new weapon and a new form he taught me," she said. "I really felt good."

Sanchez and Arvizu have been competing in the Police and Fire Games since 1999. Each has won eight gold medals and two silvers. Sanchez has one bronze and Arvizu has three bronze.

The county Sheriff's Office Winterhaven substation tag team of Jernigan and Tabarez, the only deputies to go to Santa Ana for the games, also excelled.

Tabarez, whose father is a past games medalist, took to the wrestling mat for the first time in four years to win a bronze in the 220-pound division. He went 3-2, losing to gold and silver medalists.

"I felt I had a decent performance," he said. I hadn't even worked out on weights for a whole week."

Tabarez said he's been trying to make it to a Police and Fire Games for three years, but it wasn't until his wife gave him the encouragement he needed to get up and perform.

"It was a great experience, one of the best in my life," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll take first next year."

Jernigan, who was still in Santa Ana late last week and wasn't available for an interview, won a gold in arm wrestling and a bronze in the bench press.

Tabarez said Jernigan put up 345 pounds in the 170-pound division.

"He did damn good. He's my boy," Tabarez said.

Tabarez added he knows of one other Imperial Valley medalist in wrestling, Calipatria State Prison Correction Officer Ray Leon, who earned a bronze.

Other Valley competitors included:

Arturo Reynaga, Ruben Ortiz and Thomas Hendricks, all of the U.S. Border Patrol; retired county Probation Officer Darrell Ramey; Dion Arguilez, George Tapia, James Crabtree, Michael Quiroz, Oscar Andalon, Yolanda Alvarez and Sandra Rivas, all of Centinela State Prison; Gilbert Cortez and Monica Collado, both of Calipatria State Prison; and William D. Beasley of the county District Attorney's Office.

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