BEACON FALLS — Each Tuesday, a group of students gather behind Woodland Regional High School to throw axes and cut things up. It’s not vandalism, it’s the school’s newest club: the Woodland timber team.
“It is a competitive co-ed lumberjack competition,” Woodland humanities teacher and club adviser Robert Murdy said.
The timber team competes in a variety of events, including axe throwing, log rolling, bow saw, and cross cut, which features two people sawing through a log with a 5-foot two-man saw.
Murdy said he wanted to start the Woodland team after seeing the Wamogo Regional High School timber team at the Warren Fall Festival last year.
“I know there are a lot of kids who hunt and fish and they are not into soccer or drama. So we wanted something different for them,” Murdy said.
Although Murdy immediately thought it was a great idea, school administrators took a little more convincing.
“I did have to explain that this is a collegiate sport. They do it at UConn. It is also a professional sport,” Murdy said.
Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said when Murdy originally proposed the idea his first thoughts were about safety and liability.
“Safety is the number one priority, but timber team events and practices can be performed safely. As Mr. Murdy reminded me, our [physical education] classes do archery, the construction classes use power saws, and the track team throws javelins,” Ogren said.
Once it received approval from the school, the club started at the beginning of this school year and currently has 18 members.
One of those members is senior Maddison Mircsev.
“I wasn’t really into sports during my high school experience. So I thought I would take a chance and do something a little different. It’s new to everybody so I wouldn’t have to just jump right into it. It’s a pretty great opportunity to meet new people,” Mircsev said.
Mircsev is the type of student officials hoped the timber team would draw.
“The best part of the timber team is that is engages some students in a positive extracurricular activity who may not be a part of the sports programs traditionally offered at Woodland. We want to connect every student to the school through some sport, organization, or club. The timber team fills this void for some of our students,” Ogren said.
Although there aren’t many high schools that offer a timber team, Murdy knew where to look to find a team to compete against.
On Oct. 8, Murdy returned to the Warren Fall Festival. However, this time he had his own team in tow. Woodland finished first and third place in the individual axe throwing and individual bow saw events against Wamogo.
Freshman Sean O’Connell, who took first place in axe throwing, said he originally joined the club because it was something that had never been offered before.
“I wanted to be one of the first people in the school to be a part of it and be able to say I was part of the first team,” O’Connell said.
After competing in his first match, O’Connell has a passion for it, especially the axe throwing.
“I really like the axe throwing because it is unique and I’d never done it before. And I am pretty good,” O’Connell said.
Junior Carlo DellaValle, who placed first in bow saw, echoed O’Connell’s reasoning for joining the team, saying that it seemed new and unique. However, he gravitated towards the bow saw event.
DellaValle said the event is pretty straight forward. Each person tries to cut through a log with a bow saw and the person who cuts through in the fastest time wins.
“I think we are really coming together as a team. Everyone is starting to find their rhythm,” DellaValle said.
Murdy said the practices will continue throughout the rest of the school year. Although the timber team formed too late to take part in autumn competitions this year, Murdy is hoping to have a number of competitions lined up for the spring and even hopes to have Woodland host its own competition.
In the meantime, Murdy is working towards attracting new members and making the club more widely accepted.
“We just want this to be the same as every other sport and seen in the same way. Not just a little fringe thing,” Murdy said.