Competing in Webster Springs, WV

May,  2001

Sponsored  by  Stihl Chainsaws,  Carhartt Clothing  &  Timberland Boots


The Webster County Woodchopping Festival, in Webster Springs WV, hosted the first annual National Team races between the USA and Canada on May, 27 2001.  These two teams vied for the coveted "North American Cup" in a series of match races, culminating in a best of three "International Relay" series. 

Team USA Group Photo
Sponsored by Stihl, Carhartt and Timberland, the International Relay pits the top 8 competitors from each country against each other in a series of  7 events including a stock saw race, two underhand chops, two standing block chops, single bucking and two-man sawing.  The match races leading up to the relay included two heats each of bow sawing, Jack and Jill sawing and axe throwing with each heat being worth 5 points, as well as a butcher block chop worth 10 points, and a "Team of Three" race worth 15 points.  The International Relay itself was worth 35 points.

Team Canada leaped to an early lead by winning both match races in the bow saw competition, giving them a quick 10 point lead toward the Cup.  Both races were very close with JP Mercier just beating Dave Jewett in one heat, while Donald Lambert came from behind to defeat Matt Bush in the other.  Team USA was not to stay down for long though as the next event, the Jack and Jill Sawing, was owned by the Americans.  In the first heat, Team USA manager Mike Slingerland teamed with his wife Barbara to defeat Brad and Sandy Laughlin from British Columbia, while Arden Cogar Jr. and his partner Beverly Wine, both from West Virginia, defeated world record holders Gaston Duperre and Dany Boulanger of Quebec in the second heat, tying the series at 10 points apiece.  With a tied race, Team USA looked to its captain, Melvin Lentz, and top ranked competitor Mike Sullivan to get them their first lead of the day in the always chancy axe throwing event.  As usual they came through in grand style! Throwing in a light rain both US team members defeated their Canadian opponents, team manager Rod Cumberland and John Walker of BC, giving the Americans a 10 point lead.

Next up was the Butcher Block event in which two axemen team up to simultaneously chop the same, very large, block of wood.  Team USA was the heavy favorite in this event with champion axemen Matt Bush and Mel Lentz cutting for them.  Earlier in the year both of these axemen had placed very well in this event at the World Championships in Australia, but they had never before cut together in this race.  Cutting for Team Canada was top axemen Jack Brown-John and Peter Colliver, both from British Columbia.  These men were no stranger to this event, and proved the value of teamwork by pulling off a stunning upset over the American champions.  With just one event to go before the pivotal International Relay, the two teams were now tied at 20 points each.

The Team of Three race was next and was worth 15 points to the winner.  A short relay in its own right, the Team of Three race begins with an underhand chop goes straight into a standing block chop and concludes with a springboard chop.  Unfortunately for the Americans their very strong team of Dave Jewett, Arden Cogar Jr., and Harry Burnsworth fell to the grit and determination of Canada's three cutters led by Karl Bischoff, who cut a fantastic time in the final springboard event, giving Team Canada a 15 point lead going into the final event of the day; the prestigious International Relay.

In heat one of this exciting event, Team USA got off to an early lead behind the masterful stock sawing of Harry Burnswoth.  It was a lead they were never to lose and in fact seemed to extend with every event.  Every chopper and every sawyer performed as though their lives were on the line, all in the name of national pride.  When it was all over, heat one of the International Relay went to the US Team with an amazing margin of victory beyond all expectations.

The Canadian team however had shown their heart and determination all day.  Everyone knew that they wouldn't be going down easily in round two of this best of three series.  Team manager Rod Cumberland juggled his line up, trying to find a way to keep Canada in the race early.  Karl Bischoff from BC, a top competitor in the Stihl Timbersports Series, was given the stock saw duties in hopes he could stay with the American cutter, while Donald Lambert took over chopping one of the standing blocks.  Replacing Donald to team with Gaston Duperre in the two-man sawing was Mark Bulluck from New Brunswick.  With its new line-up in place, Canada's National Team hoped they were ready for a rematch with the Americans.  Team USA manager, Mike Slingerland, chose to remain with his initial line-up of choppers and sawyers that had dominated in heat one, and the race was on.

Early in the race the changes Canada had made to their team seemed to be having the desired effect.  Within a couple of seconds of the US Team after the stock sawing, the Canadian choppers put their heart and souls into blasting their way through the 13" logs they were cutting.  Much closer than the first race, this time either team could win, and one mistake was all it would take for either team to lose.  Coming through the sawing events Team USA had a small lead with an underhand and a standing block left to go.  Team Captain Mel Lentz cut with the assurance of experience in the underhand, opening up the lead a bit more for the USA and the number one ranked standing block chopper in the United States, Arden Cogar Jr, completed the American sweep of the International Relay.  The 35 points awarded for the relay was enough to put the US Team over the top and they claimed the first North American Cup with a 55 to 35 point win over their Northern neighbors.

Team USA and Team Canada would like to thank their sponsors: Stihl, Carhartt and Timberland, without whom this fantastic event could not have taken place.  You can see all the action and drama of this international match-up on the Outdoor Life Network's "Lumberjack's Challenge" this fall.

The US National Team may have claimed the first North American Cup victory, but Canadian Team Manager, Rod Cumberland, warns that Team Canada will be back next year, stronger than ever, and ready to take the Cup back to the Great White North.

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 Article by Michael Slingerland
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