The PCC Police Department (PCCPD) recently placed in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay race last month, earning a first place plaque for the very first time.
The win is first ever for the department and the officers, who are the only community college police department to have ever participated in the annual relay event that spans two states.
Officers Jose Arechiga and Michael DeSpain ran the portion of their race along with participating officers from the San Marino, Vernon and San Gabriel police departments, making record time for the team as a whole.
To be part of the division, participating police departments must be smaller than 99 police officers.
“We participated Vernon, San Marino, and San Gabriel this year,” said Arechiga. “They allowed us to participate with them this year. We were team 90.”
For the first five teams who place, each person gets a commemorative mug, and the teams receive the plaque. The team is still awaiting their ordered plaques, a duplicate of one issued for the winning team that is comprised of the three departments, said Arechiga.
“Usually, with our Peace Officers Association, they pitch in and pay for our plaques, or we pay for them on our own and we do it that way.”
Arechiga and DeSpain train by running the campus circumference, on the campus stadium track for “speed work,” and off-campus locations where there are inclines. DeSpain runs as many as three additional half-marathons or 5Ks throughout the year as well, such as the L.A. and Long Beach marathons.
“The top 20 runners compete against all the other teams that out there, and there are 280 plus teams,” DeSpain said. “So there are various stages from Baker to Vegas that can vary from seven to ten miles, all depending on what the leg is.”
Arechiga said his run was about six-and-a-half miles on an uphill leg, and DeSpain’s was about a nine mile run in the third leg, where the baton pass was on the Baker side.
“They were the two anchors that pulled the team together,” said Interim Police Chief Steven Matchan.
The relay race was over a 24-hour period, but took 16 hours with the 23 participants who began early on a Saturday morning and ended early the next morning.
The time for each individual team member is calculated based on the time achieved by the entire relay team, with Arechiga and DeSpain achieving their best times ever in the their first place win in the history of their participation in the annual race.
The awards ceremony took place in Las Vegas at the Westgate Hotel, with another ceremony held later locally in San Gabriel.
Over the years, the PCCPD has been able to participate consistently with other police departments such as San Fernando, South Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia, as well as San Gabriel and Vernon.
“Since we are a community college, we wanted to get more involved with other police agencies to become part of the police community,” Matchan said. “So that people can understand that we’re here as police officers, just as they are working in their municipalities and areas.”
Officer James “Bobby” Karch, who was part of campus police in 2009, brought the event to the attention of the department and the school, contacted officers from another agency who were already participating in the event, and became PPCPD’s team captain. He brought it up to some officers at another agency and told them that we had some runners on the team.
Nearly the entire department went to this year’s event, as they do annually, to volunteer, drive the pace cars, keep the runners hydrated, and provide overall support to cheer on Officers Arechiga and DeSpain.
The Los Angeles Police Department puts on the invitation-only event from Baker to Las Vegas each year, where police departments come from as far as Canada.