An uncommon sight greeted early-bird commuters in downtown West Chester on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018: more than a dozen deputy sheriffs on the run.
Receiving some illumination from a Sheriff’s Office truck with its lights flashing, the group was in the final stage of a punishing regimen: the 2018 Superior Fitness Challenge. It began at 5 a.m. with 100 push-ups followed by 100 sit-ups. And then to weed out any slackers, the deputies donned 30 pounds of equipment, including a large shield, before they each dragged a 150-pound dummy up and down a long hallway, jumped over a 5 ½-foot wall, carried a battering ram about a block, and then ascended and descended a nine-story staircase while wearing a weighted vest.
The ordeal preceded a welcome break, short-lived at 5 minutes. By 6:45 a.m., the finale started: a 2.5-mile formation run around the Borough of West Chester. As drivers did double-takes and people on the sidewalk watched wide-eyed, the deputies braved several inclines, offering each other encouragement in the process.
Cpl. Joseph Woulfe, the fitness coordinator who oversees the challenge, said the routine was created by Chief Deputy Sheriff Jason Suydam. Initially, it represented the first step in the application process to join the Fugitive Apprehension Unit before it was opened up to all deputies.
Woulfe explained that the test accomplishes more than just an assessment of physical prowess. It also measures teamwork, dedication and determination, qualities that come in handy when deputies attempt to apprehend fleeing suspects or respond quickly to someone in distress.
The instructors – Woulfe, Deputy Sheriff Steven Price, Deputy Sheriff Enrique Garcia, and Cpl. Daniel Strathy – took the test a week earlier so that they could oversee this year’s challenge and assist with traffic control during the run.
The privilege of successfully completing the challenge is twofold. In addition to receiving pins to wear on their uniforms as proof of their triumph, the deputies also benefit from the knowledge that their peak fitness prepares them well for unforeseen emergencies. And that realization also entitles them to bragging rights.
Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh firmly believes the deputies deserve to boast about their accomplishment.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what they achieved,” she said. “This is a great example of the many ways in which our deputies set the bar high, performing at an exemplary level. Besides demonstrating their strength and perseverance, they also support one another, which is equally important.”
In addition to the four instructors, the 2018 Superior Fitness Challenge recipients are Deputy Sheriff Joel Buccialia, Deputy Sheriff Michael Cabry, Deputy Sheriff Mario Dioguardi, Deputy Sheriff Peter Gardner, Deputy Sheriff Sean Marasco, Deputy Sheriff Christian Medina, and Security Officer Manuel “Manny” Morris.