The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Woodland Sports Team of 11 men and nine women secured its fifth straight victory at the 63rd annual Midwestern Foresters’ Conclave in Carbondale, Illinois on April 18.
Conclave is a series of traditional wood-cutting and forestry-related academic competitions. It is considered the championship of Midwestern collegiate timber sports. Eleven teams from around the Midwest attended this year’s conclave.
Kate Witkowski, co-leader and team captain, said the team owes its success to experienced leadership and a dedicated practice schedule. The team formed in 2007, and some of its early members competed in the eastern United States where the level of competition is high.
The team practices an average of twice per week and several Pointers have competed in national collegiate and professional competitions. The final event at conclave is part of the Stihl Collegiate Series of timber sports, and the winner qualifies for the national competition.
“It’s really helpful to have that experience on the team,” Witkowski said. “We have some people that are really driven to do well in it.”
Students competed in 25 events ranging from serious, physically demanding, chopping and sawing to more lighthearted competitions like match-splitting and tobacco-spitting. Academic skill-based events such as lumber identification, tree identification and compass navigation took place throughout the day. Individual winners received points, and scores were totaled for each school.
The team is partially funded by the UWSP chapter of the Society of American Foresters but does fundraise.
“We have some pros in the area that come out and help,” Witkowski said. “We’re not a beer-drinking team that throws axes. We’re a sports team.”
Senior Andrew Roelse said he joined the team as a freshman and enjoys the camaraderie with teammates and competitors. He enjoys conclave because competition is for collegiate competitors only. Many timber sports competitions, Roelse said, are open to professionals and the general public.
Roelse competes in an event called double buck where he and teammate Paul Watson use a crosscut saw to cut through a log as fast as possible.
“Every time I go and saw, I like to think of myself as an old Finnish lumberjack making his last cut for the day,” Roelse said. “I like to remember the history.”
Bringing home a win is important to the team and the university, but competitors value fun and sportsmanship. Roelse said competitors share advice and encouragement throughout the weekend.
“Winning kind of establishes your place as a forestry school,” Roelse said. “We always try and help everyone out a bit.”
Paul Doruska, faculty adviser, said turnover is expected this year and recruiting will be important for success moving forward.
Witkowski said the fall semester will be a big recruiting time for the team. She said anyone with an interest in timber sports is welcome to join, regardless of skills or experience. Women are particularly encouraged to join.
“You don’t have to be a forestry student,” Witkowski said. “It’s really fun. You get to be part of an inclusive group.”