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Oakville team chases FireFit victory


August 14, 2012
By Laura King

Aug. 14, 2012, Oakville, Ont. – With one FireFit competition remaining before the national championship in Baie-Comeau, Que., on Labour Day weekend, the frontrunners have emerged and the team from Oakville, Ont., is among those hoping to grab the top spot.

Aug. 14, 2012, Oakville, Ont. – With one FireFit competition remaining before the national championship in Baie-Comeau, Que., on Labour Day weekend, the frontrunners have emerged and the team from Oakville, Ont., is among those hoping to grab the top spot.

Oakville firefighter Shaun Henderson, who placed first in the individual competition in Brampton, Ont., was second in Kitchener earlier this summer and won an event in Sandusky, Ohio, says that while the competition in all categories – individual, team, tandem and relay – is tough, he hopes the combination of youth and experience on the Oakville team will make the difference.

“The team is by far the strongest we’ve had,” Henderson said in an interview Monday afternoon, following the team’s strong showing at the GTA regional competition in Brampton, Ont., on the weekend.

oakvillefirefit
The Oakville Fire Department's FireFit team of Dave Walker (left), Josh Gowaniock, Shaun Henderson and Darren Van Zandbergen is poised to vie for top spot in the national competition in Baie-Comeau in September.

Photo by Laura King.

Henderson’s individual time of 1:19:35 in Brampton was half a second better than rival Claude Belanger of Longueuil, Que. – next weekend’s competition is in Longueuil. Oakville teammates Darren Van Zandbergen (1:24:90), Dave Walker (1:33:14), Josh Gowanlock (1:41:87) and Jeff Yee (2:27:95) placed fifth, 14th, 34th and 97th in a field of 120. The top three times are counted towards the total score.

“By far the guy who’s made the most strides is Darren,” Henderson said.

Van Zandbergen, a former DND firefighter, joined the Oakville department four years ago as a training officer and at 39, is the senior member of the team.

The Oakville team was first overall in Brampton in both the team and the relay events; it was first in the tandem in Sandusky, first in the team event in Kitchener and third in the relay.

The Hamilton, Ont., team of Justin Couperus, Louis Bouteau, Dean Morrow, Michael Jones and Danny Folino, which placed second in Brampton, and the Longueuil team anchored by Belanger with Jean-Sebastien Goyette, Jean-Francois Doucette, Stephane Deschenes and Adam Wyatt – third in Brampton – are both contenders for top spot at the national championship. Brampton’s team of Ian Pringle, Sean Romanek, Drew Hueter, Brad Welsh and Peter Gatto, which placed forth on the weekend, is also in the mix.

Henderson, meanwhile, is enjoying his best times and hopes to knock a few seconds off the 1:19 mark in the next couple of weeks while practicing at Oakville’s training centre.

“I’ve never had a fast start like this,” Henderson said. “Typically as we’ve competed over the years you start out a little bit slower and as get to nationals you drop your time. I’m kind of looking at my season now and a wondering if I have 1:19 now, can I be in the 1:15 range? I feel it’s my strongest year so far.”

The 2010 and 2011 FireFit champion, Graham MacKenzie from Kamloops, ran 1:18:64 in the Pacific regionals this summer, while Jamie McGarva of Team Westshore Terminals clocked 1:17:56. The two west-coast competitors, along with Belanger, Sudbury’s Trevor Fera (1:19:38 in Kitchener) and Hamilton’s Couperus (1:20:62), along with Henderson, are at the top of the depth chart heading into the final weeks.

“Right now looks like it’s among six or eight guys,” Henderson said.

Kamloops’ MacKenzie ran 1:15:66 in last year’s Firefit championship to lead his team to first place with an overall time of 4:01:11; Oakville was second at 4:08:51, with Henderson clocking 1:19:04.

In the women’s division, Central York’s Amber Bowman has run consistent times this season (2:11:96 in Kitchener and 2:11:52 in Brampton) while newcomer Britany Holmberg with the County of Brant fire Department is improving with times in the 3:30 range.