For the first time, the Santa Ana Police Department fielded a 24-woman, all-female relay team for the 120-mile LAPRAAC Baker to Vegas race held April 1 and 2.
“Fielding our first all-female team this year builds and promotes physical fitness and camaraderie between us,” Sergeant Johanna Lizardi says.
Lizardi, who has competed in previous Baker to Vegas relay races, notes that SAPD’s all-female relay team practiced with long and short runs and other training for five months.
The 37-year-old race is hosted annually by the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club. The race begins in Baker, known as the gateway to Death Valley, and proceeds through the northern Mojave Desert, over the mountains, and ended this year at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.
The shortest legs of the race are about 4 miles, with the longest 10.7 miles. About 240 teams – all members of police department teams – competed in 2023.
Santa Ana Police Department’s first all-female relay team was particularly significant this year, says Public Information Officer Sgt. Maria Lopez. That’s because the department recently committed to boosting recruitment to build the number of female officers up to 30 percent of the department’s staff by 2030 – the new 30 by 30 Initiative.
Pushing past one’s mental limits and developing strong cardiovascular health are main reasons the women want to compete, but the team spirit they’ve built is most important.
“Our career requires us to stay in shape,” notes Team Captain Detective Dania Osorio. “Working together we can motivate each other.”
Osorio, who ran her first Baker to Vegas race in 2017, was the person who put this historic team together.
“I remember seeing the other police departments with all-female teams,” Osorio says. “I texted and talked to every one of the 34 females in the department, and more than half were initially interested.”
She adds that she works out at least five days a week and run three times weekly, to prepare for the race.
“This has been good for our morale,” she notes.
Detective Sgt. Sandy Kim points out that with so few women working in law enforcement careers the camaraderie the SAPD all-female relay team is developing is all-important.
“It’s inspiring to work out together,” Kim says. “On race day you know that you want to be in the best shape possible so you don’t disappoint your department and team.”
For 51-year-old Detective Eva Lopez, who was the first SAPD female officer to run the Baker to Vegas relay, this year’s race was the last of 17 she’s run in a row. She plans to retire shortly.
“The actual race is grueling,” Det. Lopez says. “I always run the hot legs in the middle of the heat during the day, when it is 100 degrees outside and the pavement can get up to 120 degrees.”
“Every step I took once when I wasn’t doing well, I was thinking, ‘I want to quit. I want to quit,’” she remembers. Somehow, she kept going and finished her leg.
“You want to quit,” she recalls, “but you don’t want to let your team down.”