John Schiedeck with Schiedeck Construction from Texas, representing dealer Holt Cat, finished the three GOC events in a quick overall time of 25:30 to be crowned North America’s Eastern Region semifinal champion. “When I was in the seat, I had to calm myself. Six minutes in the backhoe seemed like 30,” Schiedeck said. “I’m humbled and blessed to be able to win this in front of my family.”
Matt Ferris with Kinkaid Civil Construction from Arizona, representing dealer Empire Cat, completed the same three events in a short overall time of 32:15, emerging as the Western Region semifinal champion for North America. “Well, I think every little boy always dreamed of digging trenches and digging holes. So, I grew up doing that,” Ferris said. “I feel very proud and excited and happy to move on to the next competition and see how we do there.”
“Our Challenge team went to great lengths to ensure a level playing field for all participants, so no one had an advantage,” said Matt Smith, Global Marketing Manager for Caterpillar. “They even tarped the large excavator challenge area so the rain we had the night before the eastern semifinals ... didn’t affect any section of that Challenge event.”
Trench Run saw all operators use a Cat 315 Excavator with Cat Grade with 2D technology to dig a 20-foot trench. Depth transitioned from two feet to one-foot-deep midway through the trench, and there were marked areas with pipes the operators had to avoid or face stiff time penalties. “I like the excavator,” said Ryan Totton with Gulf Operators in New Brunswick, Canada, representing Toromont Cat. “You can do almost anything with it.”
The Locked & Loaded challenge had operators maneuvering a Cat 950 Wheel Loader through an obstacle course where any slight deviation from the path resulted in the machine knocking balls off cones for costly time penalties. Participants first had to load a targeted 7.5 to 8 tons of material in the bin, requiring two trips through the course. “The final load had to be tipped off to meet target, and the 950 was equipped with Cat Advanced Payload with Tip-Off Assist technology to aid in hitting the target,” said Jason Hurdis, Global Operator Challenge Lead for Caterpillar.
The operator then exchanged the bucket attachment used for loading material for a forklift attachment to pick up a sports utility vehicle. The load was then maneuvered through different cones and loaded onto a trailer before being picked up again and returned to its original position, and the operator again switched attachments to complete the challenge.
Featuring the Cat 420 XE Backhoe Loader, the Backhoe Bonanza station tested operators’ machine mastery with multiple challenges. They first picked up an I-beam with the loader bucket, placed it on a rack, and then returned it before maneuvering across a trench where they could not touch bungee cords without facing a penalty. Operators also maneuvered through cones with tennis balls, placed a square beam in a cylinder with the backhoe bucket, and finally scooped up balls from pylons and deposited them inside an oil drum.
“When we set up the course and went through it with our own operators, we knew it was going to be tough, so we raised the time limit from 15 to 20 minutes due to the difficulty,” said Dustin Adams, Marketing Manager for small dozers and mini hydraulic excavators for Caterpillar. “Most completed the course in under 10 minutes and some under seven. That’s a testament to the quality of the competition.”
In addition to the overall winners advancing to the finals, the following participants were recognized by Caterpillar with awards.
- Second place - Ryan Totton, Gulf Operators, representing Toromont Cat
- Third place - Robert Donnellan, CAC Industries Inc., representing HO Penn
- Trench Run winner - John Schiedeck, Schiedeck Construction, representing Holt Cat
- Locked & Loaded winner - Tom Gardocki (Dirt Ninja), New Era Excavation LLC, representing Milton Cat
- Backhoe Bonanza winner - John Schiedeck, Schiedeck Construction, representing Holt Cat
- Second place - Steve Newman, Newman Equipment Rentals, representing Quinn Company
- Third place - David Gruhot, D&G Excavating, representing Ziegler Cat
- Trench Run winner - Ben Dunbar, Windley Contracting LTD., representing Finning Canada
- Locked & Loaded winner - Daniel Ludtke, Elite Dirtwerz, representing Holt of California
- Backhoe Bonanza winner - Steve Newman, Newman Equipment Rentals, representing Quinn Company