Andrew Copeland with his Keizer Police vehicle (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

BY JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Fair warning to Keizer’s bad guys: Don’t run from Sgt. Andrew Copeland. You won’t win.

You probably won’t be able to scale a rope faster than him.

And even though he considers it his Achilles’ heel, swimming might not be smart either.

Maybe it’s just not a good idea to mess with a man who just beat out dozens of physically-fit cops and firefighters to win the Toughest Competitor Alive competition – a grueling grind of eight events that include a 5K cross-country run, obstacle course, rope climb, bench press, pullups, shotput and 100 meters each on land and in water.

You won’t be surprised to learn Copeland, 33, has been a competitor since he was a kid. He’s not a big guy, standing only 5’10”, but earned his way onto the Western Oregon University football team after playing a variety of positions in his senior year at McNary High School.

The Celt alum played running back, receiver, and all the defensive backfield positions at one point or another during his final year before graduating in 1995. (If his surname sounds familiar it should: Cousin Stephen Copeland quarterbacked the 1997 championship squad.) He also competed in long jump, high jump and javelin.

Moving on to WOU, he spent four years on the team playing wide receiver, three of those in the starting lineup. After college he got the first police job he applied to, and has been at Keizer Police nine years now.

Obviously his athletic background comes in handy when a suspect takes off on foot, but it has other benefits, too.

“There’s a lot of stressors to police work,” Copeland said. “You deal with people you wish you didn’t have to, you see things you wish you didn’t see. You have a lot of different emotions.

“(And) what I find is a healthy workout routine actually reduces stress for me,” he continued. “It gives me some consistency in my life … the endorphins it releases makes me all-around better at home and at work. You have other releases and other contacts and other ways to communicate rather than just dealing with cops and bad guys.”

The stereotype of cops scarfing doughnuts all shift long doesn’t do a lot of Keizer’s officers justice. All police officers have to meet a fitness standard, and some take it further, entering marathons and triathlons.

“There’s guys who do crossfit and stuff like that,” Copeland said. “We’re always talking about the workout of the day. There’s one guy in particular, we compete a little bit to see who can do the most pushups and pullups.”

Yeah, but who wins?

“I do, so far.”

Eating right isn’t so simple when you work 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. nine months out of the year. Copeland says preparation is the key. Fruits and nuts replace potato chips and cookies in the pantry.

“I also try to make the snacks I bring to work a little healthier,” Copeland said. “Instead of eating Doritos you get a frozen bag of strawberries.”

It’s good everyday training, especially if you were to enter a contest called the Toughest Competitor Alive. Sgt. Jeff Goodman had competed in the past, Copeland said, and turned him on to the event.

It’s a one-day grind: “Each one in and of itself isn’t difficult,” Copeland said. “What made it hard was it started at 7 in the morning and it ended at 5 at night.”

Run a 5K, rest, then climb a rope. Catch your breath, then swim 100 meters.

“The swim. The swim,” Copeland answers when asked what his potential downfall was. “I didn’t have access to a swimming pool to train. I went to Courthouse (Athletic Club) and swam about a month before… And it’s not like you can just go hop in a lake or a river around here. … I don’t know if I finished dead last in my division, but I know I was pretty close.”

He won the 5K, and won a couple others that must have blurred together, because he can’t remember what they were.

But it’s kind of like what “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase used to say about winning: At the day’s end they don’t wanna know how, they just wanna know who won.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have won; I really do,” Copeland said.

Copeland lives in Keizer with his wife and four children.