Every day at 6 a.m. — while most are still fast asleep in bed — the University of Maine’s Woodsmen’s Team can be found setting up for their practice behind the Emera Astronomy Center. The UMaine Woodsmen’s Team is a co-ed club sport revolving around lumberjack contests. For over 40 years, individuals from UMaine competed against other Northeastern and Canadian schools in events such as axe throw, standing block chop and bow saw.
The growing sport has garnered a lot more attention within the last decade, which in turn has increased the level of competition. Such changes within the sport, however, have been shown to be no match for the team; they have a whole shed of trophies and plaques to prove it. In the past, the club has even sent one or two individuals to the Stihl Timbersports Championship.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, the UMaine team hosted their annual home competition behind the Sawyer Environmental Research Center. UMaine hosted 19 individual coed six-person teams from six different universities — the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the University of Vermont, the University of Connecticut, Unity College, Maine Maritime Academy and Colby College. Due to the recent warm weather spurt, the competition field was a giant mud pit. However, this was no deterrent for the competitors and spectators who came from far and wide and were more than accustomed to getting their hands a little dirty.
“We came up from eastern Pennsylvania yesterday so we’re glad that the mud and a little wind is all that we’re dealing with,” Debra Manning, mother to a UNH competitor, said.
The one-day event ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The field was set up in a grid-like formation where each cell held a different event. Each event was timed and the fastest time won.
“The competition here is great,” Alex Jakubowski, a third-year UMaine student and club treasurer, said. “A lot of these individuals from other schools know each other from being on the team so long but that just adds to the intensity of everything in the end.”
The team aspect is what often entices people into the sport, but it certainly is not the only reason. Bree Jarvis, a UMaine fourth-year student and the club president, described how she became involved in the club. She was approached by the previous president of the club when Jarvis and her friend were at a first football game her first year.
“We were both wearing flannel and he thought we might be interested,” Jarvis said.
She went to the first practice that year and “[has] just never left.” Jarvis shared that “the people in this community are all awesome to be around and they’re some of the most supportive people you’ll meet. Everyone who is a part of this sport is so passionate about it and I think that’s really unique.”
When not huddling around the giant fire pit that was on-site, spectators and teammates could be seen — and heard —from the competition cells. If you were not on the sidelines yelling until you couldn’t speak anymore, you were probably looking on with your jaw locked and fists clenched in anticipation.
“Sometimes you just get wrapped up in the excitement of everything — the crowds are yelling, the [teammates] are hooting and hollering — it’s just hard to not join in,” David Blithe, father of a Colby College competitor, said. “I don’t know how [the competitors] keep their calm a lot of the time.”
So how does one maintain their composure whilst competing?
“During an event I’m not thinking, just doing,” UMaine second-year student Nate Richard explains. “You know what needs to be done, where your axe needs to hit… you’re just taking the long hours of practice and making them pay off.”
All the hard work paid off for the men’s team as they won first place in the overall events which included stock saw, disk stack, single buck, split and men’s timbersports relay. The UMaine women’s team came in fourth overall and Jarvis won first in disk stack.