Sheriff’s Explorers Post 106 captured top honors at the national Winterfest competition last month in Gatlinburg.

  • Explorers Lt. Peyton Hall, Sgt. Malia Xayachack, Sgt. Oscar Flores and Patrick Burns captured first place honors in Crisis Negotiations.
  • Capt. Matthew Dougan and Caleb Jones earned second place in DUI traffic stops.
  • Xayachack, Sebastian Yount, Evan Myers and Patrick Burns earned 6th place in the felony traffic stop scenario.
  • Xayachack placed 15th in the written test.
  • Flores reached 28th in physical fitness.
  • Gabreal King, Laeken Adams, Flores and Dougan took 18th place in warrants service.

Sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America, Winterfest is the largest regional event for Explorers to compete in career fields such as law enforcement and emergency services.

            Dougan said several deputies trained the Explorers and they researched, studied laws and practiced skills about weekly for several months to prepare for the competition scenarios.

            “You never know what you’re going to get, what you’re going to see (in competition),” Dougan said. “It’s all different. You have to adapt.”

Dougan and Jones used their training to earn top honors in DUI traffic stops.

In the crisis negotiations scenario, Explorers encountered a suicidal man who heard voices directing him to hurt others and kill himself. Hall tried to talk to the man but he refused. Instead, the man talked to Flores.

            “Oscar stepped right in and took over for me when he said he wasn’t going to speak,” Hall said. “Because of our friendship in and out of the Post, it helped us know what each one would say and think and develop in the scenario.”

Flores talked to the man about horses. Meanwhile, Xayachack found information about the man’s mother and doctor. Flores noticed a bulge in the man’s shirt and convinced the man to hand over a knife and gun to end the scenario.

Xayachack credited Sheriff’s Sgt. Monica Fonseca who trained them for the crisis negotiations.

In the warrants competition, Explorers obtained a photo and prior criminal record including violent acts of a suspect they had to arrest on robbery charges.

They knew the suspect had weapons. When they knocked on the door, they found three people who denied knowing about a robbery.

They handcuffed one woman. One person fled.  Flores captured the fleeing person while the others arrested the suspect. The judges gave them constructive criticism and feedback, praising the team on the way they entered the room.

In the felony traffic stop scenario, the team responded to several suspects in a robbery. The suspects did everything the team commanded. Explorers searched the car, removing the seats and finding every clue involving the robbery.

“The judges were impressed,” Xayachack said. “They had nothing to criticize.”

Xayachack competed in the written test covering grammar, knowledge of the law, amendments and questions about traffic laws with bonus questions about presidents and vice presidents.

Flores competed in the fitness event including  running 50-yard run, doing pull ups, using a battering ram, running around furniture, doing pushups and sit ups, shooting targets, carrying a 200-pound dummy and engaging with someone “who flung me like a monkey.”

“I pushed because the Explorers yelled to keep going,” Flores said. “They motivated me.”

The competitors thanked their advisors, Deputies Andy Pugh, Grant Quintal, Andrew Farley, Kaitlyn West and Beth Porter, fellow Explorers and deputies who trained them.

Xayachack said Explorers built a stronger team and made friends with people in other states.

            “We just all cling together even better than before,” Xayachack said. “Our communication is so incredibly strong now. It was an amazing opportunity to build our future in the law enforcement field.”

            Students ages 14 and out of 8th grade who are interested in being an Explorer may contact Deputy Pugh at


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