Jason Novak of Marion, Illinois, won the inaugural Buckingham Climbin’ For Linemen competition this morning at Gateway Motorsports Park. Novak, an Ameren Illinois employee, used his skills and focus to win the Buckingham championship belt and a vacation package to Mexico provided by the Bevins Company.

The event showcases the skills of the line worker, promote safety and raise public awareness. The competition, known as the “Hurtman Rescue Championship,” is sponsored by Buckingham Manufacturing (www.buckinghammfg.com). The Hurtman Rescue is a procedure all linemen are required to practice annually. This entails a co-worker climbing up to the injured lineman and using a hand line rope-and-block to lower him to safety.

“I heard about the contest through my wife’s Facebook page,” said Novak. “It sounded like a fun thing to do. It was warm today (94 degrees with 46% humidity). I was sweating before the competition even started. But it’s okay. We work in all kinds of weather. I just came back from a storm last night and came down here.

“You start off with all your tools laying on the ground. A 175-pound dummy is hung up in the air and you have to use a rope and a block. You put your tools on, run up the 40-foot pole, tie the dummy off and lower him down to the ground.”

All proceeds (including entry fees) from the event were donated to the Fallen Linemen Organization. In 2015, FLO tracked 30 fatalities and worked to assist these families. The funds from entrant participation in this event will allow FLO to continue to assist the families in their time of need.

FLO was founded by NASCAR Drivin’ For Linemen 200 race sponsor Chad Dubea, who also owns Elite Fleet Services, LLC, following the tragic loss of one of his employees. Its mission is to memorialize fallen electrical line workers and help care for the families who have lost — or are impacted by a severe injury to — a loved one in the line of duty. FLO strives to consolidate accident and injury information to promote a safer work environment. FLO also helps all fallen and severely-injured electrical line workers, including, but not limited to, groundsmen, linemen, operators, apprentice linemen, journeymen linemen, and substation mechanics.

“It was a lot of fun. Good camaraderie,” Novak added. “The belt’s cool. These guys did a really good job of running the competition.”

Scott “Woody” Lafore, of Belleville, Illinois, finished second. Like Novak, Lafore works for Ameren Illinois.

“Last weekend I was at another rodeo and a guy who was entered here got injured and couldn’t make it, so I filled in.”

Cole Winn of Marion, Illinois, works for Big D Electric and finished third.