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The finalists are set as Cat prepares for 2023 Global Operator Challenge

A wheel loader maneuvers through a course made of orange pylons
Competitors took part in three challenges, each with a different Cat machine, including an excavator, wheel loader and backhoe loader. Caterpillar

The last two regional finalists have been determined in the Caterpillar 2023 Global Operator Challenge, with representatives from the North America Eastern and Western Regions selected to fill out the nine-person finale at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023

North America's competitors will be John Schiedeck, with Schiedeck Construction from Texas, representing Holt Cat, who won the Eastern Region semifinals with an overall time of 25:30, and Matt Ferris, of Kinkaid Civil Construction from Arizona, representing Empire Cat, who finished at 32:15 to win the Western Region title.

The two were best of 35 operators who met at the Caterpillar customer and training centre in Clayton, N.C., from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada to compete for the regional honours. They faced off in a trio of challenges. Trench Run used the Cat 315 excavator fitted with Cat Grade with 2D to dig a 20-foot trench; Locked & Loaded involved the use of a 950 wheel loader to negotiate an obstacle course while loading a bin, then swap for a forklift attachment and carry an SUV through another set of obstacles. The Backhoe Bonanza called on multiple skills using a 420 XE backhoe loader, such as maneuvering an I-beam, carefully crossing a trench, avoiding cones, and more.

Nine competitors will take part in the Global Operator Challenge finals in Las Vegas this March as part of CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023. Caterpillar

"When I was in the seat, I had to calm myself. Six minutes in the backhoe seemed like 30," commented Schiedeck. "I'm humbled and blessed to be able to win this in front of my family."

"Well, I think every little boy always dreamed of digging trenches and digging holes. So, I grew up doing that," explained Ferris. "I feel very proud and excited and happy to move on to the next competition and see how we do there."  

The regional GOC semifinals are a culmination of months of competitions held worldwide at the dealer level. "We experienced amazing participation in this year's Challenge," said Jessica Nunley, global marketing manager for Caterpillar. "From more than 10,000 registrants, 3,500 machine operators competed in the first round at the dealer level, and only 84 of the best operators in the world made it to the regional semifinals."

Commenting about the challenge, Tony Pennington with Carolina Cat said: "The challenge sends a message to the contractor that they are appreciated. We had a higher number of operators participate during our two-day event this time." Two-time Carolina Cat winner, Alfonso Fajardo with Spartan Site Services in North Carolina, added, "More people are hearing about the Challenge, and there are more competitors this time, so the competition is really tough. The skills of the operators are at a higher level."

The two North American winners will now compete against operators from Sweden, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Japan, and Poland in Cat's 70,000-square-foot outdoor exhibit at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in March 2023.

In addition to the overall winners advancing to the finals, the following participants were recognized by Caterpillar with awards.

Eastern Region:

  • Second place - Ryan Totton, Gulf Operators (New Brunswick), representing Toromont Cat
  • Third place - Robert Donnellan, CAC Industries Inc., representing HO Penn
  • Trench Run winner - John Schiedeck, Schiedeck Construction, representing Holt Cat
  • Locked and Loaded winner - Tom Gardocki (Dirt Ninja), New Era Excavation LLC, representing Milton Cat
  • Backhoe Bonanza winner - John Schiedeck, Schiedeck Construction, representing Holt Cat

Western Region:

  • Second place - Steve Newman, Newman Equipment Rentals, representing Quinn Company
  • Third place - David Gruhot, D&G Excavating, representing Ziegler Cat
  • Trench Run winner - Ben Dunbar, Windley Contracting LTD. (British Columbia), representing Finning Canada
  • Locked and Loaded winner - Daniel Ludtke, Elite Dirtwerx, representing Holt of California
  • Backhoe Bonanza winner - Steve Newman, Newman Equipment Rentals, representing Quinn Company

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100 North East Adams Street
Peoria, IL
US, 61629


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March 14-18, 2023
Las Vegas, NV


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