Haywood Community College leaders are collecting donations to give its lumberjack club a facility worthy of its prestige.
Haywood Community College can now boast a national champion after Daniel Jones took the title at the Stihl Collegiate Timbersports Championships in Oregon over the weekend.
Jones defeated five other collegiate champions from around the country. He won the standing block, cutting through a upright log in just more than 30 seconds, and also took first place in the single buck, peeling cookies from a felled 19-inch tree with a large, crosscut hand saw. In that event, he posted a 13.97 second time, which rivals even the speediest professional lumberjacks. His performance there would have won him eighth place in at the professional tournament, which ran alongside the college match.
In the other two events, underhand chop and stock saw, a chainsaw competition, Jones took second.
Jones won the prize with an overall score of 22. Events are judged solely on time.
He isn’t the first woodsman to bring a national title back to HCC. The team also produced a national champion in 2007.
As the only team sport at a college known for its forestry program, HCC has a strong timbersports team, which includes both men and women.
Jones recently graduated with two degrees from HCC, and his top rank at the collegiate final has won him a place on the professional circuit and a few other prizes.
Before the competition, Jones thought he would wait a few years to save for proper equipment before moving into the pro series. He will now be able to make the transition next year.
In 24 seconds flat, Daniel Jones can chop through a 13-inch white pine log, perched atop it and swinging his sharpened ax in a downward arc into the braced timber.
That, at least, is the kind of time he’s going for.
Today, he’s standing on a much harder poplar round behind his coach Jimmy Lawrence’s house. There’s a whole setup of timber-cutting apparatus out there, training grounds for Jones’ upcoming run in the collegiate championship of the Stihl Timbersports Series.
Jones just graduated from Haywood Community College, where he was a member of the timbersports team. His competition record this year was good enough to advance him to the national final in Oregon this week.
Timbersports isn’t exactly a household word, but woodsmen hacking away at logs or frantically sawing cookies from felled trees might seem a little more familiar, thanks to ESPN.
Getting ready for practice, where he’ll run through his four events — underhand chop, standing block chop, cross-cut saw and chainsaw — Jones suits up in chain mail to protect his legs and steel-toed tennis shoes.
Is the chain mail really necessary?
“Well, one of the professionals, he actually almost cut his calf off,” replies Jones.
So that would be a ‘yes.’
But, say Lawrence and Jones, injuries like that are pretty rare.
Part of that must be because the dangerous work is over so quickly. In the upcoming competition, Jones will be going against five other competitors and what counts is time and time alone.
In the chainsaw event, for example, he must saw two platter-sized cookies from a four-inch section of log. And it’s done so quickly that if you turn your head, you’ll miss it.
That’s not to underestimate the physical ferocity Jones has to bring to the practice. He’s no small guy, and after leaping back and forth astride that block, he’s well out of breath, and it’s clear that he’s using every stroke as efficiently as possible.
“That’s the first thing you’ve got to break everyone of,” says Lawrence, who coaches the HCC team. “Everybody tries to swing as hard as they can.” And that might be how you split firewood, but it’s not how you win.
Some of his team members, says Lawrence, have been chopping wood since childhood. Some have never touched an ax. And since it’s the only team the college has, it’s pretty popular. But everybody essentially starts on equal footing; no one comes in as a high school star.
Part of what Jones likes about it is the heritage behind it. Timbersports were born in logging camps, and they have a working history that few other sports share. Although Jones wasn’t an avid chopper before he joined the team, there was some foreshadowing that he might end up here.
“When I was little, me and my brother would go out in the woods and chop trees down and pick the biggest one we could, see how we could get them to fall,” says Jones.
Asked if he’ll continue on into professional competition circuit after this, he says he’d like to, thought it’s a bit of a financial hurdle.
A good ax can cost hundreds of dollars. A good cross-cut saw, with its long, wobbling blade, can run into the thousands.
There are only a few firms in the world that produce them, and each tooth is hand-filed.
But if he wins this week, he’s got an automatic spot in the pro tournament. It’s not something he could make a career of, but he hopes it’ll still be a part of his life.
“Even in the professionals, you don’t make a lot of money,” says Jones. “You just do it for the love.”
The Haywood Community College Woodsmen’s Team took first in the 2010 John G. Palmer Intercollegiate Woodsmen’s Meet and Forest Festival Day recently held at the Cradle of Forestry. The team competed against Montgomery Community College, North Carolina State University, Penn State Mont Alto, and Virginia Tech.
Following is a list of all HCC finishes:
• Quiz Bowl, 3rd Place Team – Shane Baker, Johnny Manuel, Chris Steely, Bill Sweeney
• Dendrology, 1st Place Team – Shane Baker, Bill Sweeney; 2nd Place Team – Johnny Manuel, Laura Strother
• Archery, 1st Place Team – Trevor Lauber, Craig Oliver
• Team Log Roll, 4th Place Team – Heather Franklin, Vance Hagan, Zach Ritter, Kirby Shipman
• Orienteering, 4th Place – Dillon Michael
• Standing Block Chop/Male, 1st Place – Daniel Jones
• Pulp Toss for Accuracy, 3rd Place Team – Caleb Ferrell, Heather Franklin, Vance Hagan, Josh Justice, Dillon Michael, Kirby Shipman; 4th Place Team – Andy Fitzsimmons, James Judge, Kendall Judge, Justin Kearse, Joseph Lineberger, Laura Strother
• Axe Throw/Female, 3rd Place – Heather Franklin
• Axe Throw/Male, 3rd Place – Josh Justice
• Pole Fell, 4th Place Team – Miles Arnette, Kyle Childers
• Pole Climb/Female, 1st Place – Danielle Crocker
• Pole Climb/Male, 1st Place – Hunter Edmundson; 3rd Place – Zach Ritter
• Cross Cut/Male, 3rd Place – Joseph Lineberger, Kirby Shipman; 4th Place – Andy Fitzsimmons, Kendall Judge
• Cross Cut/Female, 2nd Place – Erin Kearse, Laura Strother
• Cross Cut/Jack and Jill, 2nd Place – Andy Fitzsimmons, Laura Strother
• Single Buck/Male, 1st Place – Daniel Jones; 2nd Place – James Judge
• Bolt Split/Female, 1st Place – Laura Strother; 4th Place – Chize Love
• Bolt Split/Male, 1st Place – Kirby Shipman; 4th Place – Preston Winters
• Chain Saw/Female, 2nd Place – Erin Kearse; 4th Place – Heather Franklin
• Chain Saw/Male, 2nd Place – James Judge
• Horizontal Speed Chop/Male, 1st Place – Daniel Jones
Jimmy Lawrence, the coach for Haywood Community College’s Woodsmen’s Team and president of the South Atlantic Woodsmen’s Association (SAWA), loves the lumberjack sport.
Lawrence graduated from HCC’s Wood Products program in 2004. Before that, he received a Lumber Specialist diploma in 1994 and a Sawyer diploma in 1993. He works part-time in HCC’s sawmill.
With the SAWA Lumberjack Series, Lawrence travels all over North Carolina and to nearby states to compete. The series has seven events — Lawrence’s favorites are the underhand chop, single buck, and stock chain saw.
“I like this sport because you can keep doing it at any age. That’s not true for all sports. Lumberjacking even has a master’s division,” Jimmy says. “I love teaching these young competitors all I have learned.”
Lawrence is proud of how HCC rates against many four-year schools in woodsmen’s events. “I would take the HCC team to any conclave. These students seem to have a stronger work ethic than you may see at a four-year school. They are more determined and dedicated.”