A local man once again has found his name in a familiar place - at the top of the leaderboard.
Brandon Cunningham, an Evans resident who works for the Fort Gordon fire department, has placed first in several regional competitions of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.
"I just want to win. All the team goals I've set, we've accomplished. I've set individual goals for nationals and the worlds," he said.
The combat challenge is a series of tasks related to a firefighter's duties including running a distance with a fire hose and dragging a mannequin to safety. The firefighter, wearing full gear, is timed in each event.
Fort Gordon has competed in eight regional individual and team competitions. The national event will be held Friday-Saturday, Oct. 13-14, in Clayton County, Ga., and the world championships are in Nevada next month.
In the eight competitions, Mr. Cunningham's lowest finish was second place. He has had six first-place finishes including his most recent three finishes in Erie, Pa., on Sept. 9; Augusta, Maine, on Sept. 23 and Evansville, Ill., on Sept. 30.
Before the competition in Illinois, Mr. Cunningham's best time hovered around 1 minute, 26 seconds.
"I haven't had a good clean run" before the last event, he said.
In Evansville, he broke through that barrier, posting a time of 1:24.
Anything small can hinder a run, he said, and a "1-second difference could cause a drop of eight places."
With the national and world competitions a few weeks away, Mr. Cunningham said, he is stepping up his preparation intensity.
"I still have another level of training," he said.
Mr. Cunningham came to Fort Gordon earlier this year.
He has been competing in the combat challenge since 2003 when he was in the Air Force stationed in Germany. Last year, he left the military and accepted a position as a firefighter with civil service. In 2005 he was training out of Fort Campbell, Ky. He placed sixth in the world competition last year.
"It was a bad year," he said.
At Fort Gordon, he has the support of other firefighters. As a team, the Fort Gordon unit has finished well in competitions.
Other firefighters joke about Mr. Cunningham's being the star, but he said he knows it's all in fun.
"They joke around, but they really support me," he said. "It's a lot easier. I've been in places where they didn't support it."
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