SJVC Ontario’s Corrections students rule the Women’s Warrior Competition
It was the first time students from the Criminal Justice: Corrections program at SJVC Ontario would participate in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Women’s Warrior Competition, so the six female cadets were a little apprehensive.
“At first, it was excitement,” says Vianey Campista, Criminal Justice: Corrections student. “But after seeing the competitors and knowing that some of them were officers and some were already cadets at the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, we thought they might have an advantage over us.”
The half-day competition attracted more than 200 women who represented different factions of law enforcement, along with members of fitness camps and sports clubs, as well as college students. They ranged in age from 18 to late 40s and were at various levels of physical fitness.
SJVC’s Criminal Justice: Corrections team included: Angie Moreno, Maria Cruz, Xochilt Lopez, Joana Aguilar, Vianey Campista and Rachel Garcia.
The competition consisted of three courses that are widely accepted as standardized physical tests that must be passed to join most law enforcement agencies. The first course included a 200-yard timed obstacle course, a 6-foot fence jump, a 6-foot wall climb, and ended with dragging a 165-pound dummy 10 feet. The second course was a timed 400-yard dash. Finally, the third course consisted of 25 timed push-ups and sit-ups each.
The competition was fierce, and teams were physically formidable. “They were all pretty tall girls; some were 5’10”, 5’11”,” says Rachel Garcia, who is in her last Criminal Justice: Corrections module at SJVC. “We’re all pretty short; petite at 5’2′ or 5’3″.”
“My expectations for our students were to get out there and familiarize themselves with what they’re going to be up against, and expose them to the challenges they’re going to face as women going into law enforcement,” says Darryl Chesnut, Criminal Justice: Corrections Program Director. “They realized that this was an opportunity to complete a new challenge.”
Even though the SJVC team had trained for this competition for a couple of months and knew exactly what each course would entail, they didn’t know how well they might perform under intense pressure. “My greatest fear was not being able to complete the course,” says Rachel. “We got a glimpse of the course, and the brick wall was slippery and thicker than what we had practiced on.”
That wall turned out to be a problem for a lot of the teams. “Over half of the women in the competition could not make it over the wall,” says Chesnut. “We intimidated them with how fast and efficiently we were able to get through that course. Maria Cruz from our team took First Place, with the fastest time from all the women.”
The second course, the 400-yard dash, was considered the most grueling, as the track had a slight uphill grade. That wasn’t enough to keep Rachel from taking the win. “I’m a good runner and an athlete, so it was really easy,” says Rachel, who played soccer in high school and now plays for a city league. She nailed the dash in 56 seconds.
Maria Cruz put SJVC back in the winner’s circle by taking Second Place in the third course of sit-ups and push-ups.
SJVC’s Criminal Justice: Corrections team made a huge impression on the event’s host. “At the end of it all, we had offers for employment right on the spot from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department,” says Chesnut. “They (SBSD) were asking each of the women (who performed well) who trained them, and repeatedly got SJVC as their answer.”
Success felt pretty good to Team SJVC. “Most of what I got was the experience, itself, and having more hope in myself,” says Vianey. “What we were able to conquer taught me not to doubt myself, in a way.”
This annual competition is a good way for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department to recruit physically fit and capable females onto their staff positions. “They have had problems in the past finding those who can pass the physical fitness test to move on in the department’s test,” says Chesnut.
SJVC’s team wins were recognized with medals and T-shirts. “Every time we wear the shirts, it’s a reminder that we actually competed against officers and cadets and that it was one more stepping stone to get to the career we want,” says Vianey.
“Sometimes success doesn’t equate to First and Second Place, but getting a positive experience from what they just went through as a team,” says Chesnut. “And we are about team. In law enforcement, it’s about a team effort and how well you function as a team.”
“It brought us closer together because of what we went through,” says Vianey. “It was a shock to all of us that we accomplished it and did so well.”
In the time that has passed since the Women’s Warrior Competition, many of the Criminal Justice: Corrections team have already strengthened their future career paths.
“Maria Cruz is in her final stage of hiring with the Los Angeles Police Department,” says Chesnut. “Campista (Vianey) is with Corona Police Department as an Explorer Cadet; Aguilar (Joana) is a Correctional Probation Officer for San Bernardino County; Lopez (Xochilt) got hired as a jailer for Ontario Police Department. Garcia (Rachel) is looking into going into the U.S. Marine Corp, following her mentor (Darryl Chesnut), she says.”
Determined success seems to be the culture of the Criminal Justice: Corrections program. “Our students from day one have the mindset to be the best of the best,” says Chesnut. “They learn what we call the Six Ps: Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
The next plan is to prepare for this year’s Women’s Warrior Competition. Undoubtedly, participants and spectators alike will be looking for SJVC’s team before they even hit the field. Now they have a reputation to maintain.
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