Two Rio Rancho Police officers plan to carry the Special Olympics torch in Russia in January, and may jump into a cold lake while they’re there.
However, they’ll only take the Blue Lake Leap polar plunge if they raise $5,000 apiece for Special Olympics New Mexico.

Rio Rancho Police Detective Brittany Mahnesmith and Officer Ben Sanchez pose with the Special Olympics torch in 2018 during the Law Enforcement Torch Run to kick off the state games. Courtesy photo.

Rio Rancho Police Officer Ben Sanchez and Detective Brittany Mahnesmith have been selected as two of 96 law enforcement officers from around the world to participate in the Final Leg Torch Run that tours Russia for two weeks, culminating in the opening of the 2022 Special Olympics world winter games Jan. 22 in Kazan. Participation is by invitation.
“I was shocked, and it really is an honor to be selected, so I couldn’t turn that down,” said Mahnesmith, adding that she’s looking forward to spending time with Special Olympics athletes from around the world. “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to experience it with them. I think it’s going to be amazing.”
She was invited to participate as the RRPD agency coordinator, but said a lot of other coordinators deserve to go, too.
Sanchez, the Law Enforcement Torch Run state director, ran in the Final Leg two years ago in the United Arab Emirates. From that event with 90 officers, he was one of 10 picked to be team leaders in 2022.
“I will be in charge of making sure my team doesn’t get left behind, doesn’t miss their bus,” he said.
He’ll also lead the cadence chants team members sing as he runs with them.
The group will run several routes in Russia staring Jan. 9. Mahnesmith said they’ll run five to seven miles a day for two weeks, with different people joining at various places along the way.
Sanchez expects to run all morning, have a press conference and lunch, and then run again until the evening press conference. They’ll stay in a different hotel every night, he said.
Sanchez, Mahnesmith and the other runners are fundraising online. What Mahnesmith and Sanchez raise goes to Special Olympics New Mexico, which supports the local team, the Rio Rancho Rockets.
“And if I make enough money, I will commit to jumping into a freezing cold lake in the middle of January in Russia, in sub-zero temperatures,” Sanchez said.
All runners who meet their fundraising goals will do that “Blue Lake Leap.” Mahnesmith said Blue Lake in Kazan stay 48 degrees year around. The surrounding temperatures can be 15 below zero.
Sanchez and Mahnesmith said they have volunteered with Special Olympics fundraising efforts and the torch run since they began their law-enforcement careers. For both, helping hand out medals at a Special Olympics bowling tournament propelled them to deeper involvement.
Sanchez said he fell in love with the athletes, and Mahnesmith said their excitement stuck with her.
“To be around the positivity they bring — there’s no better feeling,” Mahnesmith said.

To give to Blue Lake Leap fundraising
for Special Olympics NM, visit:
• Detective Brittany Mahnesmith:
app.mobilecause.com/vf/Leap/BrittanyMahnesmith
• Officer Ben Sanchez:
app.mobilecause.com/vf/Leap/BenSanchez

Rio Rancho Police Detective Brittany Mahnesmith, front, second from right, carries the Special Olympics torch with a Special Olympics athlete during the 2018 Law Enforcement Torch Run International Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Courtesy photo.