Students, pros take a whack at fame in STIHL competition

April 17, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Penn State Mont Alto students Adam Wentzel, left, and Mike Harbart, center, and Haywood (N.C.) Comunity College students Houston Dickens work the timers Sunday during the STIHL Timbersports competition.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Penn State Mont Alto’s woodsmen’s team placed second among five collegiate teams this weekend in the STIHL Timbersports Series Mid-Atlantic Qualifier, which was filmed for ESPN.

This year was Penn State Mont Alto’s turn to host the two-day event, which also featured professional lumberjacks competing in several contests. Individual students were competing for one spot to represent the region at the 2011 national competition.

Daniel Jones of Haywood Community College in North Carolina earned that designation at the event’s conclusion Sunday, according to Craig T. Houghton, an adviser for Penn State Mont Alto’s team.

Haywood also took the top spot in team competition Saturday.

“It’s skills from the old days when the loggers worked in the woods,” Houghton said, saying the same skills have been in use since the 1800s.

Ashley Morgan, 20, competed for the first time. Her favorite event is the “bolt split” where colored firewood is divided into four pieces and must have paint on all pieces.

Other Timbersports featured over the weekend included team log roll, pulp toss, cross-cut, single buck and water boil.

“I actually placed in all my events,” said Morgan, a Penn State Mont Alto sophomore from Mount Union, Pa.

Morgan, a business management major, is one of four female competitors on Penn State Mont Alto’s team of about 20.

Sandy Sheppard, 21, is not a member of the woodsmen’s team, but said she enjoyed supporting classmates from Penn State Mont Alto. She was impressed by the professionals’ skills.

“They’re really good,” Sheppard said.

Morgan and Sheppard described an event in which the professionals used notches to climb logs standing 9 feet high. They chopped the logs upon reaching the top.

“I was scared for their lives because what if it fell,” Morgan said.

Safety is the first thing taught when learning the skills, according to Tyler Wakefield, 20, a sophomore on Penn State Mont Alto’s team.

“A lot of the stuff is dangerous,” said Wakefield, a forest technology major.

Wakefield said he most enjoys the water boiling contest in which competitors race to bring their fire to a temperature where water boils.

“It’s as fun as it looks,” he said.

Seth Morris, a 19-year-old forest technology sophomore, talked about the history of logging.

“It’s the first extreme sport,” said Morris, who finished in fourth place in the collegiate competition.

Wakefield and Morris said the activities require technique, muscle and heart.

Houghton said Saturday’s rains necessitated cancellation of the final relay competition that day. He said the campus experienced similar weather when it last hosted the qualifier in 2005.

Houghton, who estimated as many as 500 people watched Sunday’s events, said the 10 professional loggers on campus over the weekend serve as good role models for the students. He said his team trains occasionally with professional Jamie Cogar in West Virginia.

“He’s really friendly,” Houghton said. “They’re helpful.”

No injuries were reported over the two days, Houghton said. The collegiate competition should air on ESPN in July and the professional footage in September or October, he said.

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