Up North: 61st Annual Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward

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While the Olympics have been ongoing in Tokyo, the “Olympics of the Forest” took place in Hayward this past Thursday through Saturday.

Spectators and competitors alike traveled to the Historic Lumberjack Bowl for the 61st Annual Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward. For some, this event is a family tradition.

2019 Men’s All-Around Champion Matt Cogar drove from West Virginia to defend his title. Cogar has been competing in lumberjack competitions for over twenty years.

“My great-uncle was the one that got the whole family started,” Cogar said. “But they were taking trees out with axes and saws for the industry part, and now we’ve been able to just take it to the sport side of things. It adds a little bit of sentimental note because you are doing the exact thing they were doing years ago”

Spectator Jeff Farnsworth has been coming to this event for decades. His uncle used to be a competitor, and this year, Farnsworth brought his son along for the experience.

“A lot of people don’t know it, but back when Hayward was real young, all the logs would be into the Namekagon river here, and they would float them down the tributaries,” Farnsworth explained. “That’s how they distributed the logs.”

Chopping, log rolling, speed climbing, sawing, axe throwing, and boom running are all part of the Lumberjack World Championships each year. Extensive training goes into each competition.

Competitor Billy Kunelius has been competing since college.

“It’s a lot of technique for doing the event and a lot of technique and practicing,” Kunelius said, “It’s not always the biggest or strongest guy who wins but the person who can cut the block the best technically.”

Cogar agrees that technique is just as important as strength.

“If it’s not gym work, it’s always skill set, but you have to have the right balance of both,” Cogar added. “So you do probably end up spending a good solid thirty hours a week just doing any training you can possibly do. Probably about five days a week in the gym and then six days a week is training.”

The Lumberjack World Championships were cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, but this year’s competition drew quite a crowd. Thousands of spectators came to see almost 100 competitors in the three-day event.

For Women’s All-Around, Erin LaVoie placed first and second place went to Lindsay Daun. Jason Lentz won Men’s All-Around, with Matt Cogar placing second. The full competition results can be found here.