Duke Energy linemen wrangle 12 awards at world rodeo competition

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There may not have been calf roping, bull riding or steer wrestling, but Duke Energy linemen wrangled 12 awards at the International Lineman's Rodeo Oct. 17 in Bonner Springs, Kan.

One Duke Energy team from North Carolina brought home second in the world honors in the overall journeyman category and first in the investor-owned utility division. The team was composed of Keith Griffin and Jay Tipton, both of Marshall, N.C., and Sandy Barnhill of Candler, N.C. The team also finished with a perfect score.

“We definitely had a good day at the competition,” said Tipton, 21-year lineman, and whose family made the trek to Kansas to cheer him on. “At each rodeo I always learn something new -- whether it is a new technique or work method -- and share it with our guys. There isn’t a better place to learn how to work safer, faster and more effective.”

The team also placed second in “mystery event two” and third in “mystery event one.” Both mystery events included replacing insulators – equipment on the utility poles that keep electricity from running through the poles to ground – using extension poles and other tools. Mystery events are announced the day before competition and are designed to simulate unexpected challenges experienced on a job.

Mitch Nelson of Lafayette, Ind., was named second in the world in the overall apprentice category and first in the investor-owned utility division. He also finished fourth in “mystery event one” by replacing a connector, which connects primary conductors together.

“I was happy to be able to celebrate with my whole family there watching me and I thank God for giving me the abilities he gave me to do what I do,” said Nelson, Duke Energy Indiana third-year apprentice lineman. “The help and support I received from my guys back at my district in helping teach me throughout my apprenticeship has been incredible.”

Duke Energy also won two awards in the journeyman team and senior-journeyman team divisions. A rodeo journeyman has more than four years of utility experience, while a senior-journeyman must be at least 45 years old.

Five Duke Energy journeyman teams finished in the top 25 out of 229 teams.

Curtis Wilson, Nick Fritz and Will MacDonald, all of New Port Richey, Fla., placed fifth among investor-owned utilities and earned a perfect score.

David Phillips of Huntersville, N.C., Mike Haynes of Marion, N.C., and Neal Walker of Shelby, N.C., placed third in the senior-journeyman team division.

Combined, the senior team has almost 90 years of line work experience.

Jacob Lynch of Weaverville, N.C., placed fifth overall in the investor- owned utility division.

Jamie Bannister of Anderson, S.C., placed first and Chase Ritch of Apopka, Fla., placed second in the apprentice written test. An apprentice is a line worker with fewer than four years of utility experience.

“Our linemen participate in these competitions to continually refine their skills,” said Mitch Hutchins, Duke Energy technical training specialist. “The preparation and every event competition helps our linemen work quicker, better and most importantly, safer for our customers.”

Eight Duke Energy apprentices finished in the top 25 out of 303 competitors.

Overall, 59 Duke Energy line workers competed at the 32nd annual International Lineman’s Rodeo. They were tested on job-related skills such as hurt-man rescues, equipment repair and pole climbs, while being judged on speed, agility, technique and safety procedures. The 2015 competition marked the largest number of competitors to date.

Learn more about competitors here: www.duke-energy.com/about-us/stories-2015-lineman-rodeo.asp

Duke Energy line workers took home 11 awards at the International Lineman’s Rodeo in 2014. One Duke Energy team from North Carolina finished second in the world in the overall journeyman category, and second overall in the investor-owned utility division. In 2013, a Duke Energy apprentice won best in the world at the International Lineman’s Rodeo.

Duke Energy employs more than 5,000 line workers to construct, operate and maintain the equipment that delivers electricity to approximately 23 million customers across all jurisdictions.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at: www.duke-energy.com.