SRS worker in world event that tests brains, brawn

Most days, John Head is a financial analyst at Washington Savannah River Co. But there are those times when he likes to run, lift weights and ride his bike.


From Dec. 7-10, Mr. Head will combine his number-crunching abilities with his physical prowess during the World Team Challenge in Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean south of Sicily.

"I'm pretty pumped," said Mr. Head, 45.

He leaves for Malta on Saturday, along with other team members of Washington Group International, the parent company of Washington Savannah River Co., which operates the Savannah River Site.

The team qualified for the World Team Challenge by finishing second last month in the BG U.S. Challenge held in Roanoke, Va. Members competed against about 50 corporate teams. Team members are Rudy Bellinger and Paula Bowman, of Denver, Colo.; Susie Ferrara and Mr. Head, of Aiken; Joseph W. Ebert, of West Valley, N.Y.; Josh Gerard, of Olmsted, Ill.; and Juergen Lunkwitz and Mike Kapuscinski, of Princeton, N.J.

The contests are part of the Intelligent Sport series, which tests competitors' physical abilities with running, kayak and bike races. In addition, there are problem-solving tests that must be completed to advance through parts of the course.

"You really have to work together as a team," said Ms. Ferrara, an alternate on the team. "You lose a little weight along the way, which is an added benefit," she joked.

As an alternate, Ms. Ferrara won't be attending the world event.

Teams are urged to select members with specialized skills. Mr. Head, for example, is an avid bike rider and Ms. Ferrara participates in marathons. Mr. Head also runs three to four times a week and lifts weights.

"I've been running and lifting weights since high school," said Mr. Head, who lives in Aiken and has worked at SRS for 21 years.

Of course, teams have to use their brains, too.

At the U.S. challenge last month, the Washington Group team had to construct a mechanism that could catapult pieces of fruit onto a target.

To stay sharp, Mr. Head said, he and his teammates complete problem-solving tests and share them via e-mail.

He said he was excited to make the trip. Redemption has something to do with that enthusiasm.

The Washington Group team finished 18th in the world competition last year when it was held in Florida, Mr. Head said.

"I think we can be a lot more competitive this year," he said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or