An estimated 300 student lumberjacks from 14 universities will gather near the Mississippi State campus late next week to test their skills in a variety of logging events, including one qualifying competition that could lead to a national collegiate championship.
The 47th Association of Southern Forestry Clubs' Conclave at MSU's John W. Starr Memorial Forest Thursday-Saturday [March 25-27] will feature the Stihl Timbersports Collegiate Invitational Qualifier from 1-5 p.m. on opening day.
The winner in three cutting and chopping events--underhand chop, stock saw and single buck—will advance along with three other winners of collegiate logging sports conclaves across the country to a national championship event Aug. 5-8 in Augusta, N.J. The other conclaves will be held at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., Penn College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
In addition to MSU, other universities represented at the Starkville event will include Alabama A&M, Arkansas-Monticello, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Stephen F. Austin State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.
In order to maintain their amateur status, collegiate finalists do not compete against professionals in the Stihl Timbersports Series pro competition. They will vie, however, in the three pro-level events on the same stage, using the same wood and equipment.
The New Jersey competition and another pro event in Lima, Ohio, Aug. 25-28, featuring 28 professionals, will be taped for broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. Tape of the collegiate events also may be utilized in the national broadcasts.
"We're very excited about the conclaves," said Roger Phelps, promotional communication manager for Stihl Inc. "We're hopeful we'll find a new king of the lumberjacks. Whatever we can do to promote the sport is great. Timbersports is in its 19th year.”
MSU's student chapter of the Society of American Foresters will host the conclave at the Biennial Midsouth Forestry Equipment Show site near the Starr Memorial Forest entrance, located about seven miles south of Starkville on Highway 25.
Conclave events from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday will feature competition in a variety of events that include knife throwing, axe throwing, chain throwing, log rolling, log birling, archery, pole felling, pole climbing, log chopping, and bow and crosscut sawing. First-, second- and third-place finishers will be recognized.
"While it is unlikely that employers are interested in how quickly prospective employees can fell or climb a tree, the competition is still an integral part of the forestry college experience,” said Keith Belli, associate dean of MSU's College of Forest Resources, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Beyond the physical events, however, MSU faculty noted students also will compete in academic and technical activities such as wildlife identification, timber estimation and dendrology—the scientific study of trees.
"The physical events are fun for students and spectators; however, the technical events are competitions in which the students' forestry education is best displayed,” said Donald Grebner, an associate professor of forestry and faculty advisor to MSU's SAF chapter. "Success in the technical areas is also worth more competition points than the physical events.”
For more information, call Karen Brasher, College of Forest Resources, at (662) 325-8530.