By Lynn Colburn
City of Jacksonville Fire Department Captain Beth Kershaw competed in the first CrossFit Competition of the World Police & Fire Games in Los Angeles on August 14 and 15. Not only did Kershaw compete, she finished 4th in the world in the firefighter category in her age bracket!
Kershaw, the only female full-time firefighter in Jacksonville, does not look for or want publicity for herself. She will talk about the department, point to other firefighters’ accomplishments, but she is reluctant to talk about herself and her accomplishments both in career and in the sport of CrossFit.
Kershaw grew up in Arenzville. She says she teases the other firefighters that she is from “God’s country,” as most of them are from Jacksonville. She went to Triopia and played basketball, softball and ran track. She says her journey as a firefighter just kind of evolved. “I tore up my knee in high school running and playing basketball, then went to Illinois College to play basketball and tore up my knee again playing basketball.” Kershaw graduated from Illinois College in 1986 with a physical education degree. “Later I broke a bone in my foot while running in Arenzville and my doctor told me I should find another sport that put less stress on my joints.”
In May 1990, she moved to Jacksonville. “I took a scuba course with Bob Fitsimmons and got my certification. I enjoyed it and loved helping people, so that all led me to joining the dive team in Jacksonville.” The Jacksonville/Morgan County Underwater Search & Rescue Dive Team is responsible for the rescue and/or recovery of near-drowning and drowning victims within Jacksonville and Morgan County.
Participating in the dive team pointed the way to Kershaw to becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT). “Not long after I became an EMT, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a position at the Jacksonville City Fire Department. I have been on the dive team and an EMT now for 30 years and have been at the Jacksonville City Fire Department for 27 years, the first two years as a secretary/dispatcher and 25 years fighting fires.” She earned the rank of captain in 2007.
“As firefighters, we always try to do different competitions among ourselves as a way to stay fit for this demanding job, contests included stair climbing, a biathlon and a firefighter challenge,” said Kershaw. “Steve King and Curt Rueter (fellow firefighters) talked me into trying CrossFit. A group of firefighters all do CrossFit at various locations around town including Carriage House CrossFit, T3 (Triple Threat Training) and Redbird CrossFit at the YMCA.”
CrossFit helps the firefighters to build both the strength and stamina needed for their jobs. CrossFit combines major weight lifts with basic gymnastics, and with a hard and fast bike, run or row. By mixing these elements in many combinations and patterns and keeping workouts short, intense and varied, it builds muscles and strength. Kershaw injured her shoulder during work and has spent the last two years focusing on CrossFit as a way to rehab her shoulder.
Kershaw competed in her very first CrossFit competition at the Capital City CrossFit’s “IceBreather Classic” on January 21. It was a two-person, same sex team taking part in the high-level athletic competition. The masters division consisted of two same-sex competitive partners whose total age equaled at least 80 years. Kershaw (age 52) competed with her niece, Allison Phelps (28). Kershaw had joined the worldwide online CrossFit competition and only the top 10 (five firefighters and five policemen) were invited to join this prestigious World Police & Fire Games in each age group. The Capital City competition qualified Kershaw to receive her invitation. Approximately 10,000 athletes representing firefighters, law enforcement and officers from corrections, probation, border protection, immigration and customs, all representing more than 65 countries across the world were competing in 65 Olympic-style sports. These games offer more sporting disciplines than the Summer and Winter Olympics combined. The mission of the games is to promote sports and physical fitness among the law enforcement and firefighting community worldwide.
Kershaw says Steve King also qualified for CrossFit at the World Police & Fire Games in his age bracket, but instead competed in the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 3-6, a greater accomplishment. King chose to be Kershaw’s coach at the games. “King, along with Jolene Campbell, came to Los Angeles with me for support,” said Kershaw. “The best part of the CrossFit workouts is the people. It’s the community you meet and work out with. They are a family group.” Kershaw began CrossFit at Carriage House in 2013 and is part of the early morning workout group. “Without CrossFit, I would not have been comfortable getting back to 100 percent for the job.” She said she received so much help and support from all the people at Carriage House during her shoulder rehab, she didn’t want to leave anyone out in her thank you. “Everyone was supportive and encouraging and they cheer you on to complete your workout.”
Carriage House CrossFit held a fundraiser July 7 and all funds raised were used to benefit the expenses of Captain Kershaw.
“I am proud to represent our City of Jacksonville and our fire department. I have always loved helping people and being in public service.” Kershaw feels she owes it to our community to stay fit for her job. She tries to work out at Carriage House as often as she can. Congratulations, Captain Kershaw!
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