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Competitors flock to Oilfield Olympic Games

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Christina Stock Photo It looks easier than it is. The rules of the Red Dirt Black Gold Oilfield Olympic Games’ tire obstacle event were clear. The team members competing needed to step in every tire and not fall. Anybody who fell had to start over.

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The Oilfield Olympic Games at Artesia’s Eagle Draw kicked off the annual Red Dirt Black Gold Festival in Artesia last Saturday morning.

There were five teams who signed up for this year’s Oilfield Olympic Games, which give a glimpse into the challenges of everyday work in the gas and oil fields. The events of the day celebrated the men and women who are working those dangerous jobs out in the fields under grueling conditions including heat and in rain.

Sarah Swoyer is one of the volunteers helping to make the events go smoothly. She works for the HollyFrontier Company, which operates as an independent petroleum refiner in the United States. One of its operations is the Navajo Refinery in Artesia.

“I am volunteering, it’s just for fun,” Swoyer said. “I’ll be running each team through each course and there will be judges on each station.”

The entire event was organized by the Artesia Arts Council and Artesia MainStreet with volunteers from local organizations such as the Friends of the Artesia Public Library, the Artesia Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and private volunteers.

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This year, seven course challenges had to be overcome, including the obstacle hurdle and throwing of a heavy oilfield equipment piece; some challenges were different than last year.

The first challenge was to walk on a log without falling. Anybody who fell off the ground-level log had to start over. The next new challenge was to unbolt and re-bolt oil pipes; then construct a small part of a PVC pipe system, balance wooden boards and the last challenge was to run a tire obstacle course.

The first team up was the FFA (Future Farmers of America) team. The young people did their best despite having never touched a pipe or bolts before. Their time was 8:41 minutes to do the course. They ended up last, but the team spirit of the teenagers was high and the audience could hear them laughing and shouting after all teams were through: “We’re the last. We’re the last.”

Being the last is unusual for some of the FFA team, after all. Kaylin Klein was part of the team that earned a state championship for wool and is going to compete at the National FFA Convention, set for October in Indianapolis, Indiana. Taylor Scott was part of the team that achieved third place from the state judging competition in Las Cruces for livestock this year. Fallon Avery also went to Las Cruces and won third place in the Junior High Creed at the New Mexico FFA Junior High State Leadership Contest. Grace Tarver is the fourth member, and tried her best to win the Oilfield Olympic Games. Asked why they participated, Klein and Scott said that they wanted to represent their FFA chapter and that they had a lot of fun.

It got exciting for onlookers when the teams Keepin’ it Real and Buffalo each ran the course in exactly 5:03 minutes. The two teams had to repeat the pipe-building station as tie breaker — for second place — which Keepin’ it Real won.

First place went to the team What the Flame and its team members Drew Frugia, Corey Ochs, Shane Rowley and Dan Warner. All team members work for Devon Energy and had never participated in the Red Dirt Black Gold Oilfield Olympic Games before. They said that they were planning to return to defend their title next year.

The team Par Five got the team award this year.

The games were just the beginning of a day that offered entertainment for kids and adults. A surprise shower in the late afternoon got roadies running to cover the music equipment on stage, but fortunately the rain stopped in time for the main shows.

In the evening Artesia’s downtown echoed with the sound of live country music. Headliners William Clark Green and Roger Creager played their hits until deep into the night for an audience that came out with lawn chairs and blankets.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.