The best-of-the-best heavy equipment operators in central and north Florida descended on Ring Power CAT for a two-day operator challenge June 19 and 20 at the company's Tampa, Fla., location.
On both days, the overall challenge event provided friendly competition among operators from various construction companies, opportunities to see and operate the newest Caterpillar products, win some great prizes and enjoy a catered barbeque lunch with representatives of Ring Power and Caterpillar.
The challenge is part of the overall Cat 2019 Global Operator Challenge in which the winner advances to the North American Regional Finals in Clayton, N.C., in October to compete with other regional finalists. The regional champions then advance to compete against operators from other regions and contestants from around the world at the Cat Global Finals at ConExpo in Las Vegas in 2020.
Operators must pass a pre-qualifier course first to participate in the competition. If they do, they are then put to the test on three different tasks using a Caterpillar compact track loader, Caterpillar wheel loader and Caterpillar excavator, with each task providing various challenges and varying degrees of difficulty. Ring Power provided each contestant with a special edition 2019 Operator Challenge commemorative coin and ballcap in appreciation of their participation.
Over the two-day challenge, 38 operators put their skills on display during the finals. Awards were given out each day and the overall scores for both days were announced at the conclusion of day two.
Theodoros Fetsis of AAA Services, Clearwater, Fla., took first place and was awarded the $500 prize and a Cat cooler. However, he elected to opt out of the regional competition, which resulted in the second-place finisher, Kenny Billings of Cypress Gulf, Tampa, Fla., becoming the contestant that Ring Power will send to the regional finals in Clayton. Coming in at third place in the competition was Mike Myers, of Lakeland, Fla. The highest participation in the competition came from Team RIPA of RIPA & Associates, Tampa, Fla.; QGS Development, Plant City, Fla.; and Cypress Gulf, Tampa, Fla. CEG
Part of the competition included an agility challenge using a Caterpillar 299D2 compact track loader.
The new Caterpillar D6 dozers were among the many Cat machines on display.
After Caleb Brinn of RIPA & Associates, Tampa, Fla., finished this run in the compact track loader challenge, he said this was “definitely the toughest of the three challenges.”
Competitors relax and unwind while enjoying a barbeque lunch with Ring Power and Caterpillar representatives.
Ring Power’s marketing team gather around the scoring table to tabulate the winning times after day two.
(L-R): Theodoros Fetsis of AAA Services, Clearwater, Fla., receives the $500 first place prize money and a Cat cooler from Ring Power’s Chris Zeras, Nimsay Montgomery and Sue Miller.
Caterpillar backhoes and wheel loaders lined the course for contestants to check out during break times from the competition.
They call themselves Team RIPA and they came to the competition with a big team with big operating experience. (L-R) are Joshua Phillips, Caleb Brinn, Kenneth Griffin, David Drew, Kevin Acorn, Nate Baker and Tommy Pridemore, all of RIPA & Associates, Tampa, Fla.
Another powerhouse team (L-R) included Cody Harris, Aaron Tillet, Harrison Cumbie, Ryan Donley, Jordan Haranda, Maiko Velazquez and Jon West, all of QGS Development, Plant City, Fla.
Ready to tackle the course challenges are Mike Myers (L) and Robert Legg of the city of Lakeland, Fla.
Safety is a foremost consideration at these competitions. Day two started with assembling the competitors for a thorough safety briefing.
Bryce McGuire (L), one of Ring Power’s machine demo specialists, provides complete details and rules for the compact track loader competition to some of the competition finalists.
Contestant Jim Schlick (L) of AAA Services, Clearwater, Fla., receives additional instruction on operating a Caterpillar 336 excavator from Ring Power machine demo specialist Blake Conwell.
Jon West of QGS Development Inc., Plant City, Fla., felt good about his time after his run in the Caterpillar 966M wheel loader.
A Caterpillar 336 excavator was used in the Watch Your Weight challenge as competitors utilized the production measurement technology to accurately load a Cat 730 articulated truck.