By CHAD ABSHIRE
This Saturday at 6 p.m., one of Williamson’s own, Garrett Gregory II, will be competing in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge in Charleston, on Kanawha Blvd. and Summers Street.
“I’ve been training every day,” Gregory said. “When I’m not on shift, I’m riding my bike. When I am on shift, I’m running up and down the stairs five times.”
Gregory, a former Williamson High School athlete, said that he’s been training for this competition since February.
Wearing full bunker gear and a breathing apparatus, he will undergo simulations which recreate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks, including climbing a 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized 175 lb. “victim.”
Gregory said that, while he’s confident, he “expects nerves to set in on Friday and Saturday.”
“I don’t want to fall or drop something,” Gregory said.
If he completes the course on Saturday in less than two minutes, then he’ll move on to Sunday’s competition. If he finishes again in less than two minutes, he’ll earn a spot in the national competition at Myrtle Beach in November.
Of the times he has simulated the events he’ll be competing in, his best time was 1:29, but that was without the hose drag event.
“To me, it (the hose drag) is not that hard,” he said.
Gregory told the Daily News that he’s confident that he can beat the two-minute time limit, and is not nervous.
But even if he did get nerves, it would work out for him.
“The last time I got nervous, it was the state championship, and we won,” Gregory said.
In 2001, Williamson High School won the class “A” basketball championship against Oceana High School.
Gregory, now 26-years-old, was a part of that team.
“I’m in this for the challenge. I love competing,” Gregory said. “This is once in a lifetime to compete in something you love, and have it be your job.”
Last month, Gregory was honored as a hero at a Williamson City Council meeting after he “exemplified strength of mind and courage” during a daring rescue of a woman in a burning structure in East Williamson.
“She was on the third story balcony,” Gregory said, “and I climbed up a 35-foot extension ladder to get her.”
Gregory said that he was only doing his job, but that it is nice to feel appreciated.
“She was only a few seconds from jumping,” he said. “But the phone could ring right now and I’d go do it again.”
Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts said that people should call the station at (304) 235-5273 and wish Gregory well in this weekend’s competition.
“Call down here and we’ll pass it along to him,” Mounts said.
The event is free to attend, and Mounts said that he hopes people will come root for a local hero.
And Gregory himself wouldn’t mind the extra cheering.
“I hope to have people come support me. It’d probably be fun to just go watch the competition,” Gregory said. “But while I’m there, I might as well try to bring a medal back to Mingo County.”