Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Police Dominate in the Desert

by Elizabeth Chapin

CSU Northridge Detective Mark Benavidez handing off the baton to runner David Olivares, a parking officer from CSU Long Beach.
CSU Northridge Detective Mark Benavidez hands off the baton to runner David Olivares, a parking officer from CSU Long Beach.

Every spring, law enforcement officers from around the world compete in the “largest police foot pursuit in the world,” a grueling 120 mile relay race that begins in Baker, California and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the CSU Police team took top honors.

The CSU team won the “500 Invitational” division in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay April 13-14—their second win in the past four years. The team’s 24 runners and 20 support staff hailed from CSU Channel Islands, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

The race is broken into 20 legs and runners may experience temperatures in excess of 120 degrees during the day, to sub-freezing at night—making it truly an extreme challenge. That’s why support staff play an important role—they provide communication support and monitor the runners for injuries or heat related illnesses.

The CSU running team was founded in 1998 by CSU Fullerton Sgt. Jess Lopez and CSU Northridge Sgt. Mark Benevidez has served as team captain for the last five years. Team runner assignments are open to sworn and civilian CSU police employees, and support staff open to CSU staff and officer family members.

The around the clock tread through the desert started in 1985 and has grown to involve more than 6,000 competitors and thousands of support staff from local, state, federal and international police agencies.