The valley below Snowshoe Mountain Resort may be used to the echoes of snowmobiles, but its usually not during the summer. This weekend, the roar of snowmobiles came from the modified chainsaws used in the Stihl Timbersports Professional Mid-Atlantic and Southern Qualifier.
Lumberjacks from across the country headed for the hills of West Virginia to compete in six events for their chance to move on to the US Pro Championship in Norfolk, Virginia, June 20 through 22.
The hot saw event, the loudest of the weekend, gave competitors a chance to show their precision as they used modified chain saws to cut three cookies, measuring less than six inches all together, from a piece of white pine.
Event host Kevin Holtz explained the difficulty of the task as competitors warmed up.
“It might look like six inches is a lot of wood to get these three cuts into, but here’s what you’ve got to keep in mind, every single time that saw passes through the block, it removes a half-inch of wood,” he said. “So in those three cuts, you’ve already gotten rid of an inch and a half of your six inches of wood. Then you divide up what you’ve got left. You’ve got to have very consistent inch and a half thick cookies every single cut. If you get a little bit too wide for that, you are going to quickly find yourself on the wrong side of that blue line.”
The blue line is drawn by officials prior to each heat. Competitors may cut into the line as long as there is a part of the line intact all the way around the log.
Several competitors ended the hot saw event with DQs (disqualifications) due to malfunctions of their saws or human error. Holtz explained that the altitude affects the modified motors – whether they are from snowmobiles or dirt bikes – and it can leave the competitors in the lurch.
Logan Scarborough, of Polkton, North Carolina, a newbie to the hot saw event, said it takes time to adjust to all the elements involved in said event.
“Hot saw can be your friend one day and the devil the next,” Scarborough told Holtz on stage. “There’s a bunch of small things that go into it that young guys like myself don’t know yet. It’s kind of a trial and error thing.”
In between heats for the standing block event – a race to chop through 13 inches of vertical white pine – competitors prepared their 13-inch blocks of white pine for the underhand event.
In the underhand event, competitors stand on a 13-inch block of wood and chop downward, between their feet, in order to split the piece in half. In order to stabilize the block, competitors are allowed to reinforce the wood with nails, make marks for where they need to cut and cut notches in which to stand.
The prep time also gives the competitors a chance to test their axes to see which will be best for the race.
“This is one of the things I like about the underhand chop,” Holtz said. “Even though there is a little time put into setting up, you will see these guys are not using their work rigger axe. Matt [Slingerland] just grabbed a competition axe. He’ll look at the cut to see if there are any drag marks. You do get a chance to try out some of the axes. Subtle differences in the edges of these axes – whether it’s a chisel grind, whether it’s a standard chisel edge along the enter thing, half of a banana grind which looks like a semi-circle along the edge – each axe will cut slightly differently.”
The underhand event is a test of strength, agility and balance, as the competitors must remain on the block of wood until it is split in half and their time is up.
Although it was not one of the six events included in the qualifier, competitors took a swing at the axe toss event.
Adding to the thrill of a bullseye, a can of soda was put into the center of the target. In order to get full points for a bullseye, the competitors had to puncture the can with their axe.
As the soda flowed, Holtz joked with the competitors about the added difficulty of achieving a bullseye.
“You may want that soda can to explode, but then you get all that delicious lemon-limey stickiness on the handle of your axe,” he said.
The six events of the qualifier were: springboard chop, stock saw, standing block, single buck, underhand chop and hot saw. Competitors were divided into two geographical sections – the South and Mid-Atlantic regions. The top four competitors in each region will compete at the championship in Norfolk, Virginia.
The results of the event are:
In the South, coming out on top was 2013 Stihl Timbersports champion Matt Cogar, of Diana; followed by, in order of ranking established by score: Matt Slingerland, of Rockwell, North Carolina; Mike Slingerland, of Rockwell, North Carolina; Mike Eash, of Coatesville, Pennsylvania; Daryl Weakland, of Kannapolis, North Carolina; Chris Bradshaw, of Ridgeley; Warrick Hallett, of Glencoe, Minnesota; Scooter Cogar, of Blackstone, Virginia; Andrew Mattison, of Pigeon Force, Tennessee; and Logan Scarborough, of Polkton, North Carolina.
For the Mid-Atlantic, Mel Lentz, of Diana, took first place, followed by, in order of ranking based on scores: Jason Lentz, of Diana; Harry Burnsworth, of Mill Run, Pennsylvania; Will Roberts, of Groton, New York; Nathan Waterfield, of Cherry Valley, New York; Kyle Spry, of Walworth, New York; Paul Cogar, of Diana; Paul Pfenninger, of Scottsville, New York; Adrian Flygt, of Baraboo, Wisconsin; and Ben Hansen, of Milladore, Wisconsin.
For more information on the Stihl Timbersports events, visit www.stihlusa.com/stihl-timbersports
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org