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Wichita maintenance worker wins national contest

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at 7:29 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 27, 2013, at 8:34 a.m.

There can be only one.

Every year, maintenance workers from across the country congregate in a convention hall to determine who among them truly is the quickest at installing faucets, smoke detectors and other home fixtures.

This year, Wichita’s Justin Heenan alone can claim that title.

“Everybody was pretty ecstatic,” said Heenan, who works for Key Management. “After being there six years, to finally win it all.”

Contestants first have to win one of the 10 regional competitions, after which 10 wild card picks are made, bringing the championship draw to 20 competitors. This year’s Maintenance Mania was held last week in San Diego.

“Our 2013 Maintenance Mania champion is ... Justin Heenan.”

Boom went the confetti cannons as Heenan removed his hat and threw his fist in the air. He walked on stage and shook officials’ hands, clutching his shiny trophy in his left arm. He looked out at the roughly 1,000 people assembled as he put on his baby blue and yellow-trimmed champion’s jacket, an “unreal” sensation, he said.

Getting there was not exactly a cakewalk, Heenan said. He spent nearly eight months preparing for the event, practicing on near-scale models of the events constructed in his garage and basement – much to his wife’s chagrin.

In addition to cutting his times, Heenan said he also cut weight for the event, losing 53 pounds to “get lighter on my feet.”

The Apartment Association of Greater Wichita sent Heenan and Aaron Adams, maintenance supervisor at Buttonwood Tree Apartments, to the competition. The two, dubbed the “ICT Bad Boys,” have a familiar mantra printed in yellow on the back of their black shirts: “Play Angry,” which the Wichita State men’s basketball team used during its run to the NCAA Final Four.

“It was recognizable in San Diego,” Adams said. “People would see it and say, ‘Black and yellow, play angry, I get it.’”

After edging the second-place finisher by 0.789 seconds, Heenan won two iPads and a washer and dryer –not to mention a custom-embroidered jacket and the trophy itself – in a prize package worth more than $11,000. His total time for the eight events was 1 minute, 23.838 seconds.

“That’s not bad for a minute, 23 (seconds) of work,” Heenan said. “It was pretty sweet.”

Back in Wichita, the sense of excitement in Key Management’s second-floor office in the Equity Bank Building was almost palpable. Everyone from the receptionist to the office administrator was eager to talk about their national championship-winning maintenance man. Next year, said Sheila Tasker, Key’s office administrator, employees will try to travel to see Heenan in the competition, to be held in Denver.

“Everyone was rooting for him,” Tasker said. “When we got the text message that he had actually won, the office went crazy.”

Not even his 18-year-old son, Trai, can escape the hype surrounding his dad’s national championship. The first day he showed up to his new maintenance job, his co-workers asked him if he was related to “the” Justin Heenan, he said.

“Every time I see someone in maintenance, they say, ‘That’s the champ!’” Justin Heenan said. “In the maintenance industry, there’s a lot of buzz.”

He said he’s happy just riding the wave of excitement for now, but probably the happiest of all is his wife, who finally gets the garage back.

“She got her brand-new washer and dryer, so she said I can have the garage back and practice anytime,” Heenan said.

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riedlmatt.

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