It wasn’t long after the sawdust settled that two Saluki women realized they’d set a record for Midwestern lumberjills.
Forestry team members Ella Herges and Katie Gehrt took first place in the women’s double buck saw at the 60th annual Midwestern Regional Foresters Competition on Friday and Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. They also set a record for women in the Midwest and won $500 for the university’s forestry team.
Teams from 10 Midwestern schools competed in several events that incorporated standard forestry skills such as wood chopping, sawing and rolling.
It also marked the first year for the women’s double buck saw, when two women working as a team are timed as they use a buck saw to cut through a log.
Herges, a junior from Paxton studying agribusiness economics, said if she was asked about being a female lumberjack, or a lumberjill, during her freshman year, she would have laughed.
“When I first heard about the forestry club, I thought it was pretty ridiculous, but one of the girls in my sorority was on the team and convinced me to check it out,” she said. “It ended up being a great decision.”
Gehrt, a junior from Gifford studying agricultural systems, said she was recruited in a similar way.
“It’s pretty cool that I can not only do something that most people would consider a man’s job, but also that I can do it well,” she said.
Gehrt and Herges said the key to their success was the urge to beat the competition.
“There was this one team who had just been dominating every event, and there was this one girl who was being specifically obnoxious about it, so we just knew that we had to beat her,” Herges said.
The annual foresters’ conclave has both collegiate and professional competitions.
Gehrt said the opportunity of being able to talk to and watch the professionals was a great advantage for the team.
“Before mine and Ella’s event, we asked some professionals about what tactics we could use for the double buck saw, and they told us just to relax,” she said. “We did exactly that, and it worked.”
According to its website, the Forestry Club was formed to increase interest in students about the forestry profession and to build contacts with professionals in the industry.
The club previously took first place at the annual conclave for 17 consecutive years, beginning in 1991.
Andrew Borkowski, a senior from Marenisco, Mich., studying administration of justice and forestry club president, said he is proud of the team’s success over the weekend, but especially of the ladies’ success.
“This was the first year that the women’s double buck saw event was introduced, and Ella and Katie just blew the competition away,” he said. “I am very proud.”
The team of 30 started training months ago and practiced every day for weeks leading up to the competition.
Gehrt said most other teams had two or three women, if any.
“I think that we had an advantage having 10 girls attend the conclave. It allowed us to spread out everyone’s talents and skills across the female events,” she said.
The team took second overall at the competition.