MISSOULA — A pandemic interruption doesn't slow down Missoula firefighters as they took a top team spot in the Seattle stair climb event.
Missoula firefighters were anxious about racing up the 70-story Columbia Center after two years of COVID-19 cancellations.
Past champ Andy Drobeck didn't get first, but third overall and tops in the master class.
"Yeah, well I always go away disappointed if I don't win," Drobeck told MTN News with a laugh. "But it was a little bit nice actually having the break just from a sense of more energy, reinvigorated. Wanting to be there again rather than kind of old hat."
Blake Meyers, who finished 16th this year, agreed.
"Yeah, definitely the two years off, you forget the little details of the actual tower and the climb. And then you forget like the last 20 floors are really hard. After 50 floors, you're kind of wore out. And then those last 20 floors are definitely painful."
But this year, the seven-member Missoula team did hold on to the #1 title, topping the much larger team from Bellingham. First-time Team Captain Andrew Pace said it was all about everyone sharing strategy tips for the climb.
"We did a lot of group trainings together on some of the stairwells here in town which helped a lot. And then the fund raising stuff is all local businesses that sort of came together and we're really apt to help us with raising funds and donations so."
But even with the individual and top team finishes, the firefighters say this event is really all about caring and helping others.
"Obviously being from Missoula it's something that we're proud of and we are raising money for a good cause this year," Pace observes. "You know, if you kept up with the fund raising and all we climbed for Tristan Voller, a son of a Billings firefighter. So we had our own motivation going into it, aside from trying to keep the title."
"You know the event raises a couple million dollars for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society," Drobeck says. "And then over the years we've raised you know, just in my time going, like $140,000 to $150,000. It just keeps adding up. They do an opening ceremony and that the energy there of why that event exists and it's not the competition. The competition is kind of the icing on the cake and why we're there. It does make you realize the real reasons why you're there."