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NEWS | June 30, 2021

VNG Soldiers make strong showing at fitness competition

By Mike Vrabel, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Six Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers traveled to Arkansas to compete at the DekaStrong National Guard Challenge fitness competition May 22-23, 2021, at the National Guard Professional Education Center in Camp Robinson, Arkansas. Two members of the Virginia Army National Guard Endurance Team placed in the top three of their categories, and will be representing Virginia at the national-level competition in August 2021.

Staff Sgt. Catherine So, assigned to the South Boston-based Alpha Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, finished third among females at the competition, and Spc. Troy Vannostendrop, assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, placed second among male competitors. Both will now compete as part of the VNG’s Endurance Team at the National Guard Endurance Team tryouts Aug. 27-30, 2021, also at PEC. 

The DekaStrong Challenge is a grueling 10-event timed fitness course comprised of stations which test competitors’ strength and stamina. It starts with a 30-repetition alternating reverse lunge with a 55 pound or 44 pound weighted ram station, and gets more challenging from there. Other stations include a 500-meter row, 20 box jump-overs, a farmer’s carry and a 25-calorie burn on an air bike. It ends with 20 reps weighted burpees with a 44 or 33 pound ram.

So finished the event in 18 minutes 50 seconds. Vannostendrop finished in 15 minutes 30 seconds. 

“This experience has been wonderful for me,” said So. “I’ve been in the Guard for a little over 10 years now and I’ve never done something like this before with the Guard. I’ve always been into health and fitness. I was pumped when I found out about this and was very excited to have the opportunity to attend.”

National Guard Soldiers from Virginia and Arkansas both competed in the event, which was hosted by the Arkansas Army National Guard. Competing in a DekaStrong challenge was one of two pre-requisites for inclusion on the Virginia Army National Guard Endurance Team, the other being a 5K race time under 30 minutes. The four best combined times will earn spots on the five-member team, which also includes the state coordinator, Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez. 

So is excited for the chance to represent Virginia on the national stage. 

“This past weekend was absolutely one of the best times I’ve had since joining the Guard,” said So. “Seeing like-minded people come together to compete and just have fun was awesome. I look forward to the event in August."

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers interested in competing in future Endurance Team events should contact Abreu-Perez at

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