GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Pender Emergency Medical Services team of McKenzie Shipp and Owen Feest claimed top honors at the 31st Annual Paramedic Competition held this week in Greensboro, earning the title for the first time in the county’s history.

Shipp and Feest were among six top teams from across the state in this year’s competition, part of the North Carolina EMS Expo — an educational conference that brings together paramedics, EMTs and county emergency services directors to sharpen their skills with presentations from faculty from across the state and the U.S.

The Pender team out-performed five other pairs of regional champions selected following competitions in March from Iredell, Guilford and Rowan counties, along with FirstHealth of Chatham County. Rounding out the competition was Mecklenburg EMS who was in Greensboro defending their back-to-back championships from the two most recent years of competition. 

The teams all face the same scenario as each emerges from sequestration to respond to a mock emergency. This year’s scenario involved multiple gunshot victims at a live music show at a bar and grill. 

Tom Mitchell, chief of the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services, announced the winners at a banquet held Tuesday evening to cheers and applause from hundreds of the winners’ peers.

“These teams practice all year to get ready for this. They study and prepare for all kinds of emergencies because they never know what they’re going to face in this competition,” Mitchell said. “That extensive training results in improved quality of care rendered to the citizens and visitors across North Carolina who suffer from illness or injury.”

In the competition, each team takes turns to assess, treat and stabilize victims in a scenario that lasts 15 minutes. They must move quickly and use their experience, education and training to provide care to the victims. Teams are judged on professionalism including areas of communications, organization, patient rapport, conduct and attitude.

The competition is watched by hundreds of their peers from bleachers set up inside the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center’s Guilford Ballroom, which had been transformed into the “Red Light Bar & Grill,” complete with tables, bar and a stage where the Smokin’ Jones band played a set of classic rock favorites.

The competition provided a training opportunity not only for the competing teams, but also for the paramedics and emergency medical technicians who closely observe each team’s analysis and reaction to the scenario. 

Through the Office of Emergency Medical Services, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services works to foster emergency medical systems, trauma systems and credentialed EMS personnel to improve in providing responses to emergencies and disasters. For more information, visit