Top hands aren't found only on the farm or ranch in Arkansas; they're also found on the road, maintaining and repairing Arkansas roadways for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. And, the Southwest Arkansas District 3 recently named its top hands in the annual AHTD District Roadeo competition.
Five-time state champ and, now, nine time district winner Larry Otwell picked up the backhoe competition win, according to AHTD District Engineer Don Donaldson.
Otwell competed in a timed manipulation competition that required him to move golf balls with the backhoe bucket, while not gouging dirt. Donaldson said Otwell has won the statewide competition five times since the first state backhoe contest in 2003, competed at regionals five times, and he won the regionals in Tunica, Miss., in 2010.
Winners in each category of the annual safety event included:
Tractor/lowboy – Francisco Rodriguez, first; Charles Branham, second; Chris Clayton, third.
Tandem axle dump truck – Bobby Sharp, first; Tracy Ford, second; Glen Semmler, third.
Single axle dump truck – Shane Buck, first; Connie Pate, second; Kriste Jameson, third.
Tractor/mower – James Faulkner, first; Adrianne Alverez, second; Garland Baker, third.
Backhoe – Larry Otwell, first; Brad McJunkins, second; Rodney Shelton, third.
Motor patrol – Todd Rucker, first; Neal Price, second; Ryan Lovell, third.
Crew competition – Bridge crew, first; Howard County crew, second; Sevier County crew, third.
“The department's first annual Truck Driver's Roadeo Final was held on Nov. 5, 1991,” according to the equipment operator's fact sheet for the competition. “The event was a joint effort of the Training and Safety Division and the Arkansas Highway Police Division to instill safe driving practices and to foster pride in a job well done. Competition was later expanded to include Motor Patrol, Tractor/Mower and Backhoe.”
Arkansas has finished in the top place at regionals five times and has always placed in the top three in team standings since the regional competition began in 2003.