• 530.541.3420 | 2170 South Avenue, S. Lake Tahoe, CA
MedWAR Tahoe Challenge event participants tend to a semi-buried volunteer as part of a medical challenge simulating an avalanche victim.

Four South Lake Tahoe Women Claim Adventure Race Title

(South Lake Tahoe, CA) – On Saturday, September 21, thirteen teams lined up at Baldwin Beach in freezing temperatures at 7:00 a.m.  to start the fourth annual Tahoe Challenge Medical Wilderness Adventure Race (MedWAR). Six hours and 45 minutes later, the Killa Fly Girls team would be the first to cross the finish line - two hours before any of their opponents - and claim first place.

This is the Killa Fly Girls third time participating in MedWAR and their first victory. All four team members hail from South Lake Tahoe and are current or former flight nurses at CALSTAR, the largest nonprofit air ambulance provider. The Killa Fly Girls team was comprised of Jen Drennen, RN (Barton Health); Kasey Harris, RN (CALSTAR); Julia Sandoval, RN (CALSTAR); and Sheila Shafiee, RN (UC Davis Health). 

“We have been the second place team for the last two years and we knew we could win this year,” said Jen Drennan, a Killa Fly Girls team captain. “With a little strategy from lessons learned from past years, plain hard work, and a heavy dose of competitive spirit, it all came together for the win. We are so stoked and it is incredibly satisfying to have all that time, effort, and sweat pay off!”

Considered one of Tahoe’s most grueling one day adventure races, this year’s MedWAR included five miles of kayaking, five miles of trekking, fifteen miles of mountain biking, and an orienteering section. Along the route, the teams of four completed five realistic wilderness medicine scenarios as well as 38 wilderness medicine and Tahoe regional test questions.

Medical scenarios were proctored by medical experts in orthopedics, emergency medicine, and general surgery, and acted out by volunteer patients, including students from the South Tahoe High School Sports Medicine program. Patients mimicked a near drowning, being bitten by a snake, getting buried in an avalanche, bleeding heavily, and experiencing troubles with the altitude (acute mountain sickness).  

“Many people enjoy recreating in the outdoors, but often don’t know what to do if something goes wrong,” says Dr. Jeffrey Orr, MedWAR event director. “Tahoe MedWAR gives participants the opportunity to address some of these possible scenarios, test their wilderness medicine knowledge, and get immediate feedback on how they can help others have a safe and pleasant experience.” 

When all 52 MedWAR participants completed the race, all teams were recognized at an awards ceremony. Behind the Killa Fly Girls, second place was secured by the King Mountain Fire team, a group of volunteer firefighters from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their team members included Paul Barulich, Ann Gabrys, Joe Lopez, and Larry Sanderson and they finished in 8 hours and 50 minutes. The third place team, The Waning Gibbons, finished three minutes later with a time of 8 hours and 53 minutes. The Waning Gibbons was comprised of Brantley Bond, Garret Felling, Trevor Kennedy, and Julia Surkis, all medical students from the University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Utah. 

MedWAR is organized Barton Health, Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, Tahoe Emergency Physicians, and Tahoe Carson Valley Medical Group. Registration is open to the public and participants include adventure seekers, firefighters, high school students, medical school students, nurses, physicians, and outdoor enthusiasts. More information about the challenge and photos from the event are available at bartonhealth.org/medwar.