Photos: For drill teams, building chemistry takes time


In any team sport, it takes time to develop chemistry. It’s no different for competitors on Riverhead’s Ironmen Drill Team.

“I’d say two-three years working with each other,” said Kyle Watts, a captain for Riverhead, explaining the time it takes to develop chemistry. “For ladders, for instance, there’s four guys on the back. What I do dictates what somebody else does and what they do dictates something.”

At Saturday’s 29th annual Suffolk County Motorized Drill in Riverhead, the Riverhead Fire Department team, called the Ironmen, featured plenty of new faces. Mr. Watts said about half of the 12 team members were new to the sport.

Incorporating new members creates a challenge in a competition where there’s no room for error.

“This is something that nobody has ever seen before,” Mr. Watts said. “So we’re trying to teach them the sport, getting them comfortable with the trucks. Because everything happens in split seconds.”

Fifteen teams from across Suffolk County participated in Saturday’s event. In some events, the competitors race down a strip of road in pseudo-race car. As the car screeches to a halt, the competitors jump off and fling a ladder against an overhang and race up to the top.

The drill competitions are steeped in history, dating back nearly a century and a half.

The side of Riverhead’s car highlights the team’s state championships from as far back as 1935.

The tradition is what brought down some of the hundreds of fans in attendance on a warm, mostly overcast day.

Mark Taylor, a Riverhead native who lives near Houston, said he had family members participate in the drill competitions going back to the ’50s.

“My great uncles were probably doing it years before that,” he said.

When Mr. Taylor got out of the Navy in 1986, some of his friends asked him about joining, he said. His life took him a different direction, so he never got the chance, but he still relishes the chance to watch the competitions whenever he can.

Mr. Taylor said he was in town visiting and he wanted to bring his 8-year-old grandson, who’s from Texas, to see the drill teams.

“They don’t have this in other parts of the country that I’ve been to,” said Mr. Taylor, who’s a technical sales manager for an energy company.”

See the results from Saturday here.

More photos are below: