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Fish Frys

  In timber sports it's called the "boom run." Starting from a sprinters' position on a dock, competitors run across eight floating logs extended end-to-end -- about 30 yards -- before leaping onto the opposing dock, spinning around, and racing back.

Most of us break a sweat just thinking about sprinting 60 yards, not to mention that contestants are running across logs which are bobbing and rolling in water, requiring the kind of agility and concentration unheard of in most sports. Even the best boom runners find themselves in the pond now and again.

Abby Hoeschler made it across the boom and back in 18:94 seconds without getting her shoes wet. Hoeschler has been involved in timber sports for a decade. She is 14 years old.

"I just love to compete," said Hoeschler. "It's such a unique sport and so much fun."

Hoeschler practices daily with her two older sisters and younger brother in a home-made pond built for boom running and logrolling. The Hoeschler children are coached by their mom, Judy, a seven-time logrolling world champion.

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be lumberjacks? Bah.

Some boys and girls dream of being soccer stars. In Hayward, when a baby takes those first tentative steps it means one thing: Get the logrolling shoes, honey!

True to its name, the Lumberjack World Championships (LWC), held every July in Hayward's "Lumberjack Bowl," draws competitors from the around the globe. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia send their best representatives, tremendous athletes all. When the LWC convenes, however, it's worth the trip north to cheer our home-state competitors…our world champions.

Sean Duffy, 30, a prosecutor in the Ashland County District Attorney's office, grew up in Hayward. He started log rolling at age 5 and speed climbing (sprinting up 60 and 90 foot poles) at 13. He holds two speed climbing titles. Sean's older brother, Brian, holds 5 logrolling titles. Their niece, Taylor, is the 1998 women's boom run champion.

"There's a huge log rolling school here in Hayward," said Sean, "so a lot of the kids in the community would come down and take logrolling lessons much the same as kids would take soccer lessons and swimming lessons in other communities."

Hayward is where Judy Hoeschler grew up and claimed her seven world logrolling titles in the 1970s. When she moved to La Crosse a few years later, Hoeschler established a popular logrolling program at the La Crosse YMCA using the Hayward model.

At the Great Outdoor Games held annually in Lake Placid, N.Y., its typical to see three Hayward natives holding the gold, silver, and bronze medals in a single event. At the 2001 Great Outdoor games, Wisconsin residents took home 16 medals, the next closest state nabbed six.

"If you let go, you could kill yourself."

J.R. Salzman took his notes from training partner Brian Duffy and has practically owned the men's logrolling competition in recent years. The Salzman-Duffy logrolling battles are timber sports' version of Ali-Frazier. J.R.'s sister Tina has six women's titles and counting, sister Crystal Salzman is starting to make a name for herself, and mom Bonnie Salzman is executive director of the LWC.

J.R. and Tina occasionally practice against one another.

"We usually try to take each other's heads off," said J.R., who sports a pierced eyebrow.

And the Hoeschler clan? Judy Hoeschler's world titles came when she was Judy Scheer, part of a dynasty that includes brother Fred, four-time men's logrolling champion, brother Robert, two-time speed climbing champion, nephew Cassidy, the 1999 boom run champion, niece Carly, who is starting to compete professionally. Judy's four children are emerging on the scene.

Once a lost art, timber sports are alive and growing today thanks to Hayward.

"I was taking swimming lessons at the La Crosse 'Y' and Judy Hoeschler had a program on the other side of the pool and it looked like fun," said Carl Rick, 17, of Onalaska. He was the senior boys champion logroller a couple years back; his sister and brother compete as well.

One of Judy Hoeschler's former pupil's is Mandy Erdman, who is racking up consecutive boom running titles and currently holds the world record time at 15:57 seconds. She's just might be the biggest star on the circuit. You've probably seen Erdman running circles around the competition on ESPN.

Recently, in the LWC's amateur class of logrolling, 25 kids won, placed, or made a showing -- 13 were from Hayward, 5 more from the La Crosse program.

Young or old, male or female, you'll see athletes wearing their game-day faces at the LWC.

"You have to be a tremendous athlete," said Rick. "Agility, quickness and endurance combined."

Speed climber Sean Duffy concurs: "You do have to be a good athlete…the position of your hands and feet, using your whole body."

For Duffy it's like running a sprint 90 feet up a tree trunk. "After you are exhausted climbing 90 feet, then you have to have the strength to hold on for dear life as you bale out of the tree. You're holding on you're with your arms. If you let go you could kill yourself. It takes as much energy on the way down."

The LWC was established to perpetuate logging history in northwestern Wisconsin. It succeeds. Logging culture is as thick as the forests around here because of the annual gathering. The roster of competitors reads like a local phone book. All told, better than a quarter of the competitors in LWC are Badger State natives, with nearly all having ties to Hayward. Several families have three or four members competing and holding titles.

What better site than the old holding pond for Weyerhauser Lumber Company?

What better place than Hayward?

Visit www.lumberjackworldchampionships.com for more info. If you can't make the championships, Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Shows demonstrate virtually the same events. Shows are held rain or shine at the Lumberjack Bowl (Highway B in Hayward) from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Call (715) 634-6923.

   

 

For Duffy it's like running a sprint 90 feet up a tree trunk. "After you are exhausted climbing 90 feet, then you have to have the strength to hold on for dear life as you bale out of the tree. You're holding on you're with your arms. If you let go you could kill yourself. It takes as much energy on the way down."

 


 



 
                 
                       
       

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