Morning after morning for three months, Terry Lopez and Amador Nunez watched sunrise from the Police Academy weight room behind Dodger Stadium during their four-hour workouts, which they began religiously at 4 a.m.
Their efforts paid off. The Los Angeles Police Department officers won the mixed-doubles title Sept. 30 at the sixth annual Toughest Cop Alive state competition, held at Cal State Los Angeles and the Police Academy.
"We feel good. We feel like a family, like there's a bond between us," Lopez said.
The two Latino police officers battled law enforcement officers from 33 agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and a handful of guest competitors from Washington, D.C., and Canada.
The participants competed in an eight-event endurance test: 3-mile run, 100-yard dash, 100-byard swim, shot put, 20-foot rope climb, bench press, pullups and a 760-foot obstacle course.
"I wouldn't have done as well without her," Nunez said of Lopez. "I've trained before by myself but it was better training together because we learned something new from each other all the time."
Now that Lopez, 32, and Nunez, 28, have accomplished their goal of winning the state TCA title, they've returned to their regular agendas: Chasing drug dealers and catching drunk drivers.
Lopez is part of the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums unit in Watts, which targets drugs and gangs. Nunez rides a motorcycle for the LAPD Central traffic motors division.
This particular competition meant more to Lopez and Nunez than those in the past. They dedicated their victory to the third member of their training team: LAPD officer Sean Leahy, who died in August.
Nunez missed winning first place in the men's overall competition by only 16 points, which is equivalent to less than one pullup or one second in other timed events.
Individually, Lopez scored the highest total points ever for women and broke the record in the obstacle course by five seconds, in addition to setting a few personal records.
For the third time in her seven years as a police officer, Lopez owns the women's title in the Toughest Cop Alive competition and will keep it until the next one in 1992.
"It was my goal to win in '84 and '86, but when I lost in '88, I was determined to win in '90. I feel good because I'm older and I get stronger as I get older," Lopez said.
The 5-7, 135-pound native of Pico Rivera was crowned the World's Toughest Cop Alive in the women's category at the 1989 Police and Fire Games in Vancouver, Canada. Willpower is almost second nature to Lopez, who in 1982 was asked to drop out of her Police Academy training classes because she was not as physically fit as the job called for. In fact, she couldn't do one pullup. Now Lopez can do 25 regulation pullups and jump over a few walls to boot.
Training for the competition has only helped Lopez in her field work as a police officer, according to Sgt. Richard Roupoli, head of the south bureau CRASH unit.
"She's an outstanding police officer," Roupoli said. "She's a very high-energy type person anyway. Her training enhances her performance."
Lopez and Nunez are continuing to train, though not as intensely. And they encourage and help train other officers for the TCA competition.
Lopez is "helpful if there's an event you need help in. She doesn't keep her secrets to herself like most champions," said Marion Craig, a guest competitor from Canada. "The only person that's going to beat Terry is probably someone she's helped, and that's probably not going to be for a while."