Competing in Sydney Australia

April,  2001

Sponsored  by  Stihl Chainsaws,  Carhartt Clothing  &  Timberland Boots

The United States National Team has returned from a successful trip to the "Land Down Under".  Fielding a team in the prestigious International Relay event for only the second time in the history of Sydney's Royal Easter Show, Team USA finished once again in third place, but significantly closed the gap between themselves and second place New Zealand.  Australia once again won this best of three series.  In the first race of the series Australia put up a convincing victory finishing well ahead of second place New Zealand, and the predominantly Australian crowd could smell blood in the water.  In the second race however, before a standing room only crowd of 50,000 people, New Zealand came back to soundly beat their Australian hosts.  This set up a critical third round match that would be held in the smaller woodchop arena across the street two days later.  The third race was phenomenal with Team USA jumping out to an early lead that had the crowd wondering what would happen if there were a three way tie for first.  New Zealand then moved ahead during the second underhand chop, before Australia finally took the victory as they finished the final standing block less than a second ahead of their New Zealand rivals.

The International Relay Team is composed of the 8 top axemen and sawyers from each country who compete in 7 back to back events.  First up is a Stihl stock saw race followed by an underhand chop, and a standing block chop before returning to the sawing events with a one man bucking cut followed by a two man bucking cut; the race concludes with another underhand and another standing block chop.  The transition from one event to the next is critical for the team.

On the 2001 team, competing in Sydney against the best of Australia and New Zealand, the USAA sent some of the best choppers and sawyers that our country has ever produced.  Leading the way at the Royal Easter Show was team captain and American chopping legend Melvin Lentz.  Melvin is the top competitor ever to swing an axe or pull a saw in the United States and his experience and leadership was integral to the improved performance of the US team this year.  Melvin anchored the team by cutting one of the two underhand blocks that are part of this race.

Competing on Team USA this year, for the first time in Sydney, was top all around competitor Matt Bush.  Matt was the number one ranked chopper and also the number one ranked all around competitor in the United States in 2000.  He has been the top American finisher in the Stihl Timbersports Series at least 4 of the past 6 years and is also one of the best sawyers in the country.  Matt led by example throughout this trip and finished as the top US performer in the individual events at the Royal Easter Show.  Matt led off the chopping events in two of the three relays by cutting the first underhand block, and managed to stay right with World Champion David Bolstad who led off for the New Zealand team.  The early leads that Team USA was able to establish in these two races can largely be attributed to Matt's hard hitting style of chopping which seems to suit the hard Australian ash.

Cutting the first standing block for Team USA was Arden Cogar Jr. who is the number one ranked competitor in the US in this event.  "Jamie", as he is called on the chopping circuit, put up solid chops in all three races keeping the team close, especially in the first race of the series which was held in the Olympic Baseball stadium before a crowd of approximately 30,000.  Jamie was a major contributer to the team's success this year.

Team USA struggled somewhat to find a second standing block cutter who would be effective in the hard Australian wood and eventually alternated between two axemen who were originally selected to the team for their prowess as sawyers.  Dave Jewett cut the second standing block in the first two races, putting up very respectable chops for a team that seemed destined for third place, before returning to the event in which he is ranked number one in the US, the one man bucking for the third race.  In the final race Mike Forrester showed his teammates what he had, by finishing the race cutting the last standing block of the event.  Mike, teamed with Ryan Hatfield, is part of one of the best two man sawing teams in the country, but he is also a top one man sawyer and an accomplished standing block cutter.  Team USA took advantage of all of these talents as we searched for the best possible line-up in this series.  In the first two races of the series Mike pulled the one man saw for the team, ably filling in for Dave Jewett who had been pressed into chopping for the team, before these two versatile athletes traded positions in the final race.

The two man sawing duties were then taken over by the team of Mike Slingerland and Ryan Hatfield.  Slingerland, teamed with Matt Bush, has been part of the number one ranked two man team in the US over the past several years; while Ryan, teamed with Mike Forrester, has been setting records in all the hard wood contests on the west coast.  One of the big question marks on the 2001 team was how these two sawyers, who had never even met prior to this trip, would mesh as a team.  As it turns out this was not a problem. With just a few practice cuts, late in the evening following the early rounds of the Royal Easter Show, these two top ranked sawyers formed a team that could challenge the best that Australia and New Zealand could offer.  In each of the three races that composed this series, both the US and Australian two man sawing teams bested the world record in this event.

Stock sawing for Team USA and also sharing the managerial duties with Mike Slingerland, was top Stihl Timbersports competitor Jim Taylor.  Not only was Jim selected as one of the top chain saw operators in the US, but he also designed and hand made the two-man and one-man saws for the team.  Jim's ingenuity and saw making ability allowed him to build saws for the team to cut wood that he had never even seen before.  Jim was so successful in this endeavor that three of the 8 saws competing in the Championship two-man sawing were his products. A special thanks go out to Jim from the entire team for the support he provided which allowed US competitors to do their best under difficult circumstances.

The entire US Team which competed in Sydney, as well as those team members who were unable to make the trip (including Carson Bosworth, Mike Sullivan and Harry Burnsworth) would like to thank our sponsors, without whom we would be unable to represent our country in international competition.  Our primary sponsor in both 2000 and 2001 is Stihl USA, makers of the best outdoor power equipment available. Stihl has been a strong backer of lumberjack sports for 16 years through the Stihl Timbersports Series, and for the last two years has sponsored both the Great Outdoor Games and the United States National Team.  Associate sponsors of Team USA are Carhartt, makers of top quality work clothing and Timberland boots.  We appreciate all that you have done for our team and our sport.

Coming up next for Team USA is the first of what we hope will be an annual tournament against the Canadian National Team.  Team USA will compete against Team Canada in a best of three International Relay and a series of associated head to head events at Webster Springs, WV on May 27, 2001.  This series of National Team races will be featured in a 30 minute special on the Outdoor Life Network this fall. The two teams will be competing for the "North American Cup" in what is sure to be a hard fought contest with national pride on the line. We'll see you there...

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 Article by Michael Slingerland
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