Timber team carves its niche

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BEACON FALLS — Three years into the Woodland timber team’s existence, there’s no doubt that the woodsmen — and woodswomen — have cut a permanent niche for themselves at the high school.

The Hawks hosted their third annual Axe Games competition May 10 on the school’s soccer field. They squared off against Wamogo, the only other high school in the state with a timbersports program.

“It went well,” Woodland coach Bob Murdy said. “We definitely had some strengths and we had some things we needed to work on. It was a great competition and we had a good crowd.”

Woodland’s individual highlights from the competition came in the men’s sawing competitions. Teammates Doug Smith and Zac Bertrand claimed the men’s crosscut title.

“That’s the fifth competition in a row in which they’ve done that,” Murdy said. “They’ve absolutely dominated.”

In the men’s bow saw, relative newcomer Michael Baz took the gold medal with a time of 9.7 seconds.

“That was phenomenal,” Murdy said.

Overall, 62 athletes from both schools competed in five events: crosscut, bow saw, axe throw, log roll and pulp toss. Woodland also won the men’s pulp toss, which was another high point for the Hawks.

“My proudest moment was in the pulp toss,” Murdy said. “I’ve been training the team to count every score they get, and you could hear that our team was counting for everyone. They supported each other and they did really well.”

Wamogo claimed victories in most other events, but Murdy sees the bright side of the results.

“Considering they have six years on us and their coach is a world champion, the fact that we don’t get crushed means we’re doing pretty well,” Murdy said.

At the conclusion of the third year of the Woodland timber team, Murdy looked back at the progress his program — which is technically considered a club, not a varsity sport — has made after starting from scratch.

“Our first competition, we had seven kids,” Murdy said. “Wamogo literally taught us at the competition how to do the log roll. We’d gotten our bow saw like five minutes before. We had no idea what was going on. Now we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve had kids doing this for years and they’re teaching each other. It’s a self-sustaining, constantly improving program. I couldn’t be happier with the progress and the growth.”

Some of the Woodland woodsmen and woodswomen describe the benefits and appeal of the program even better.

“This sport brings so many people together, the people who don’t yet have a home in their school,” Lauren Mulinski told the Republican-American. “We all come together and form a really big, dysfunctional family.”

“For this sport, anyone can do it,” Dylan Napoleone added. “Some kids aren’t out there to swing a bat or throw a football, so this is another outlet.”